The classical Dynamic Duo, the powerful partnership linking Batman and Robin, is a force for justice in a chaotic world. In the world of food safety, though, there’s another Dynamic Duo. Unfortunately, these two have nefarious intentions – their names are Salmonella and Campylobacter. Salmonella (primarily Salmonella enterica) and Campylobacter (primarily Campylobacter jejuni) are two of the largest causes of food poisoning both in the United States and worldwide. Together, they account for 20% of all food poisoning cases and 50% of all food poisoning-related hospitalizations.1
Just like all heroes and villains, these two desperadoes have an origin story that shapes who they are now. Salmonella and Campylobacterseem to have met each other early on in their lives of crime, because they stem from nearly the same conditions. Both are often present in raw or undercooked meat and poultry as well as untreated water, because they naturally occur as bacteria in the gastrointestinal systems of many animals. Salmonella can also be found causing trouble on the surfaces of fresh produce.
Both of these partners are bad news, though they like to achieve their sickening aims in different ways. Salmonella generally causes salmonellosis, which presents symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramping, and headaches. It tends to pass with few further complications for people with healthy immune systems, but is more dangerous for those with compromised or weaker immune systems. In some cases, it may result in continued arthritis or blood poisoning. Salmonellosis has a fatality rate of roughly 1% across all demographics, but 3.6% in nursing homes and hospitals.2 Some subspecies of the bacteria may also cause typhoid fever, which is less common but more serious. Typhoid fever presents a very high fever and gastrointestinal pains, and often spreads to other parts of the body where it can cause arthritis and chronic infection.
Campylobacter, on the other hand, causes its own named disease, campylobacteriosis. Usually, this ends up resulting in a form of gastroenteritis, or inflammation, that usually does not require antimicrobial treatment.3 People who contract the disease experience symptoms of fever, stomach pain and cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Much like salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis is an opportunistic disease that is likely to affect those with weaker immune systems.4 In a few cases, they may develop serious inflammation in other organs, or autoimmune complications. Campylobacteriosis is very rarely fatal, but very often unnoticed: it is estimated that 30 cases go unreported for every one that is reported.4
The real heroes of this story are those who protect our food supply from villains like Salmonella and Campylobacter. To save the day, agricultural facilities need to prevent cross-contamination at all points, from the packing line to the workers to equipment surfaces, and they need to meet regulatory standards on water safety.6 To ensure that your facility remains a force for good, learn more through our other coverage.