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Economics of Reducing Campylobacter at Different Levels within the Belgian Poultry Meat Chain

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Campylobacter infections pose a serious public health problem in Belgium. Poultry meat is most likely responsible for 40% of human campylobacteriosis cases in Belgium. On a yearly basis, consumption of poultry meat causes at least 22,000 campylobacteriosis cases, with a cost of illness of €10.9 million. Several intervention measures have been proposed in literature, aiming to reduce the contamination of poultry meat and thus lead to significant reductions of human campylobacteriosis cases. This study aimed to evaluate the cost-benefit ratio, i.e., the ratio of reduced costs of illness on intervention costs of various intervention measures. These measures were selected by representatives from the poultry meat sector and experts in the field of poultry science. The selection comprised measures at the farm level (phage therapy), at the processing plant (spraying of carcasses with lactic acid or electrolyzed oxidizing water, crust freezing, or irradiation), and at the consumer level (improving kitchen hygiene and application of home freezing). Among these measures, the decontamination of carcasses with electrolyzed oxidizing water applied in the processing plant was the most efficient (17.66), followed by the use of lactic acid (4.06). In addition, phage therapy generated a positive cost-benefit ratio (2.54). Irradiation indicated the highest efficacy, but its cost-benefit ratio was rather low (0.31). There seems to be less gain by trying to improve food handling in the kitchen. The cost to reach consumers is large, while only a very limited fraction of the consumers is willing to change its behavior. The outcome of this study poses valuable information for future risk-management decisions in Belgium.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department Agricultural Economics (Agecon), Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium 2: Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Technology and Food Unit, Brusselsesteenweg 370, B-9090 Melle, Belgium 3: Decisionalysis Risk Consultants, Inc., 1831 Yale Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1H 6S3

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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