Risky delicacy: Pink duck breast

Campylobacter infections in humans are frequently caused by poultry meat, including duck breast. Campylobacter bacteria are heat-sensitive and die when meat is cooked through. As duck breast in traditional recipes is often not cooked through ("pink duck breast"), its consumption can lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal disorders caused by Campylobacter bacteria. This risk can be completely ruled out when the internal temperature of the meat during preparation on the stove or in the oven is 74 degrees Celsius or higher for more than 10 minutes. Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), points out that this rule also applies to other germs present in meat, "All common pathogens in food, both bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter as well as noroviruses and hepatitis viruses, are destroyed when exposed to high temperatures for long enough."

Along with Salmonella, Campylobacter are the most frequent pathogens of foodborne gastronintestinal infections in man. They can trigger severe cases of diarrhoea coupled with a high temperature, headache and pain in the arms and legs. The symptoms normally disappear after a few days. There have, however, been reports of isolated cases which take a more severe course, affecting patients with a weakened immune system in particular.

Examinations by the official food control authorities of the federal states detected Campylobacter in around one-third of the poultry meat samples. Duck meat is also frequently involved. The heat-sensitive Campylobacter are destroyed when the meat is cooked through. However, duck breast is often not cooked through because, in contrast, to chicken, this can make the meat tough. BfR points out that the internal temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius reached during the conventional preparation of duck meat ("pink duck breast") do indeed reduce the number of bacteria but do not completely destroy them. The risk of infection can only be ruled out at core temperatures of 74 degrees Celsius or higher, which can be measured during preparation using meat thermometers.

Basic hygiene rules must also be complied with when roasting, boiling or frying poultry: Campylobacter can also survive in the fridge and on frozen products. After thawing contaminated meat, the bacteria are mainly to be found in the thaw water. Thaw water and packaging should be disposed of appropriately and all kitchen utensils and surfaces, which have been in contact with the meat, should be thoroughly cleaned. Hands should be washed thoroughly after each stage of preparation to avoid germs spreading in the kitchen. Kitchen hygiene and sufficient cooking afford protection not only against Campylobacter infections. Health disorders caused by other bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria as well as by noroviruses or hepatitis viruses can also be avoided.

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