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Multistate campylobacter outbreak linked to chicken livers used for pâté

A campylobacter outbreak that has sickened at least five people in Oregon and Ohio has been linked to undercooked or raw chicken used as  pâté, according to a Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Food Safety Alert Tuesday.

Campylobacter Image/CDC

Campylobacter
Image/CDC

Oregon health officials investigating the outbreak say the cases in Ohio ate chicken liver pâté while visiting Oregon. This is the  second reported multistate outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with consumption of undercooked chicken liver in the United States.

At least two studies show that chicken livers test positive for campylobacter a majority of the time. The OHA cites one that says 77 percent of the time, while researchers from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen determined during a two-year study period that raw chicken livers purchased on the market were contaminated with the pathogenic bacterium, Campylobacter more than 80% of the time according to a University news release.

The Oregonian reports that the chicken livers were processed at Draper Valley Farms in Vernon, Washington. In addition,a couple of Portland restaurants are noted in the report as serving the pate– the Heathman and Wildwood.

Pâté made with chicken liver is often undercooked to preserve texture. It can be difficult to tell if pâté is cooked thoroughly because livers are often partially cooked then blended with other ingredients and chilled.

Campylobacter is a bacterium that can also be found, with not quite the frequency as in chicken, in healthy cattle, birds, raw milk, and contaminated water.

Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts. It is also possible to get infected from the feces of an infected pet cat or dog. It is the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States, more than Salmonella and Shigella combined.

It doesn’t take a lot of this organism to get you ill. In some studies it showed that as little as 500 organisms can cause disease in some individuals. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says that you can get infected from one drop of juice from raw chicken meat.

Campylobacter jejuni, the species most often implicated in infection causes diarrhea, which may be watery or sticky and can contain blood and white blood cells. Other symptoms often present are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. The illness usually occurs 2-5 days after ingestion of the contaminated food or water. Illness generally lasts 7-10 days, but relapses are not uncommon (about 25% of cases).

There can be complications associated with campylobacteriosis; they include arthritis and neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is estimated that the latter is seen in one out of every 1000 cases of Campylobacter.

Most cases of Campylobacter are self-limiting and do not require treatment. However severe cases can be treated with antibiotics to shorten the length of the disease.

So how do you protect you and your family from this diarrheal disease? The following steps can be taken:

• In the supermarket, choose well-wrapped chicken, and put it in a plastic bag to keep juices from leaking.
• Store chicken at 40° F or below. If you won’t use it for a couple of days, freeze it.
• Thaw frozen chicken in a refrigerator (in its packaging and on a plate), or on a plate in a microwave oven. Cook chicken thawed in a microwave oven right away.
• Prevent cross contamination. Separate raw chicken from other foods. Immediately after preparing it, wash your hands with soap and water, and clean anything you or raw chicken touched.
• To kill harmful bacteria, cook chicken to at least 165° F.
• Don’t return cooked meat to the plate that held it raw.
• Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking.
• Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk and contaminated surface water.
• Wash hands with soap and water after contact with pet feces.

 

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Audrey says:

    Your liver’s job is to process toxins and that includes those in the environment that you breathe in or ingest. “For so long we kind of pooh-poohed it, but now we know with those toxins, they actually have to be filtered out by the liver.”

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