A report by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has found almost 100% of chickenmeat in the country is contaminated with campylobacter, with young children suffering the brunt of illness from this contamination.

Campylobacteriosis sickened 165 children aged one to four per 100,000, with a total of 1,808 cases reported across society in 2009 and about 1,666 in 2010, according to the “Recommendations for a Practical Control Programme for Campylobacter in the Poultry Production and Slaughter Chain” publication.

Campylobacter infection can lead to acute gastroenteritis with diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever, and can be severe in vulnerable people, such as the very young, the old and those with any underlying health condition.

The report presented a range of recommendations such as improved bio-security on farms, a monitoring scheme to check contamination levels, leak-proof packaging, cooking instructions and warnings against washing birds visible on packaging.

Despite an emphasis on education, telling consumers to cook meat thoroughly and to avoid cross contamination from uncooked meat to cooked products, the report said retailers and farmers could also do more.

“Campylobacter causes approximately four times more illness than Salmonella in Ireland,” said Prof Alan Reilly, chief executive of the FSAI.

“The Irish poultry industry has been very effective in reducing Salmonella on poultry and now needs to make further improvements to address the Campylobacter problem.

“Retailers have a role to play in helping the poultry processors to implement measures to control Campylobacter and by speeding up the introduction of leak-proof packaging for retail display of poultry.”