Werner Strydom  -  How can we reduce Campylobacter in the UK food chain?

Aviagen, The Poultry Meat Group
Cobb Europe
Hubbard - Poultry Meat Group

I grew up on a beef and sheep farm near Burgersdorp in the North-Eastern Cape of South Africa. I have lived in the UK for 14 years and have spent all that time working in farming in the South of England. I obtained my degree in Agriculture with Business Management at Writtle College in Chelmsford, Essex, in 2007. This is where  I met my wife, Caetlyn, who at that time was studying Conservation. On completing my degree we moved to Eye in Suffolk and I have been working in broiler production ever since then.  I currently work as General Broiler Manager for Hook2Sisters Ltd - Central & Southern regions, supplying chickens to 2 Sisters Food Group. I have been involved with the industry’s  Joint Working Group project to set up model farms to see if by adhering to the highest level of biosecurity, we can reduce the level of Campylobacter in the birds produced at these sites. My involvement  with this project  lead me to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship in order to research more widely how to reduce Campylobacter in the UK food chain.

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My research topic is “How can we reduce Campylobacter in the UK food chain?”. Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. It was responsible for 72,150 confirmed cases across the UK in 2011, which was a 3% increase from 2010. In 2008 Campylobacter resulted in more than 17,500 hospitalisations and 88 deaths. The European Food Safety Authority estimates that more than half of the cases of Campylobacteriosis in humans may be attributed to chicken.

As part of my research, I would like to visit New Zealand, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and the USA as all of these countries have implemented interventions that have shown a significant reduction in the number of confirmed human cases of Campylobacteriosis. I want to start at farm level looking at on-farm measures .  I also want to look at the transportation of the birds, and finally at what interventions are implemented at factory level. I would also like to look at what role legislation, genotyping and different breeds of broilers play in these reductions.

I would like thank both the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust , and my sponsors - Aviagen, Cobb Europe and Hubbard Breeders - for bringing the biennial Poultry Meat Scholarship award forward a year and giving me this fantastic opportunity.

Campylobacter registered on my radar for the first time when a work college contracted the bacteria and had a significant amount of time off work. As the profile of the effect of this bacteria grew, my curiosity into this problem grew to the point where it became a passion. Reading up about Campylobacter, I realised that countries like New Zeeland has done a lot of this work and has shown up to 70% reductions in the amount of confirmed human cases of Campylobacter. Going to find out what they, and other countries did was one of the main driving factors that lead me to apply for a Nuffield Scholarship.