The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is inviting tenders for campylobacter research, to explain figures that suggest rates of food poisoning from the bacteria are lower in deprived areas of Scotland than the country’s other areas.
The deadline for applications is May 12. The successful tenders will be decided by the end of August.
Campylobacter is the most commonly reported bacterial cause of food poisoning in the UK and Europe, according to the agency.
Laura Evans, scientific advisor on foodborne disease, FSA Scotland, told FoodQualityNews.com research into the factors behind cases will allow the agency to identify groups most at risk and target consumer messages more effectively.
“The FSA has developed the Campylobacter Risk Management Programme (CRMP) as part of its Foodborne Disease Strategy, to reduce the risks and burden of foodborne disease in the UK,” she said.
“The programme has a range of projects, including this one, targeted at different points across the food chain, from farm to fork.”
A previous project, ‘The factors associated with geographic and temporal variation in campylobacteriosis in humans’ looked at cases from 2000 to 2006. Data was compared with risk factors such as private water supplies and animal density, and used to develop statistical models.
This research suggested deprivation was a protective factor for infection, with higher rates of campylobacteriosis in less deprived areas of Scotland. Other research in the UK has supported the findings, the FSA said.
“The study did not provide the reasons behind the lower rate of campylobacteriosis found in deprived areas of Scotland, although the results suggested that the effect could not be explained by acquired immunity through exposure amongst the more deprived population or differences in foreign travel compared with less deprived areas,” the agency said.
It is now commissioning research to find out whether deprivation continues to have a protective effect, and why this is.
460,000 cases a year
“The FSA would like to know what factors are most likely to influence rates of campylobacter infection in different socioeconomic groups in Scotland,” the agency added.
“Questions to be considered are whether the reduced number of cases in deprived areas is a true reflection of the disease incidence, an artefact of reporting, or a signature of differential health care uptake.”
Campylobacter is considered to be responsible for around 460,000 cases of food poisoning, 22,000 hospitalisations and 110 deaths a year in the UK, according to the FSA. Most cases come from poultry, but Campylobacter can also be found in red meat, unpasteurised milk and untreated water.