Food Safety, Preparation and Storage Tips
Cooperative Extension, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, the University of Arizona


Campylobacter is a type of bacteria found in the intestines of many of our pets, barnyard animals, birds, and some humans. Bacteria pass through their intestines and cycle through the environment. Campylobacter is the leading cause of diarrhea here in the United States. It is easily destroyed by cooking foods thoroughly and drinking treated water.

It takes only a small number of these bacteria to cause an illness in some people. Illness from contaminated food or water produces symptoms within 2 to 5 days and can last for 7 to 10 days. Twenty-five percent of all people who get this illness have a relapse. Symptoms include fever, headache, and muscle pain. These symptoms are followed by diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea. Most cases are self limiting and don’t need to be treated with antibiotics. But, in severe cases of diarrhea, antibiotics are needed. Complications include: meningitis, urinary tract infections, arthritis, and Gullian-Barre syndrome.

The most common sources of Campylobacter are contaminated water, raw milk or meat, and undercooked meats. And, it might also be found on your pet’s coat so wash your hands after petting your animals. About 20% or more of chicken found in grocery stores is contaminated with Campylobacter. And, 50% of diarrhea is caused by eating improperly cooked chicken or recontaminated chicken.

Other sources of contamination include drinking untreated water from lakes and streams or drinking unpasteurized milk and other dairy products. Always use proper food handling procedures for raw foods. Refrigerate meat at 40° F or freeze it. Cook meat and poultry to 160° F to kill bacteria. Avoid cross contamination of raw meat with cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Place your cooked poultry or meat on a clean plate using clean cooking utensils. Don't use the ones that you used with the raw poultry or meat without washing them in hot, soapy water first.

The lesson here to avoid this illness is to refrigerate your meat or poultry properly, avoid cross-contamination, and cook it thoroughly.


Material written by Ralph Meer and Scottie Misner, June 1998.
Part of Food Safety Tips, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona
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