Campylobacter programme review - research projects in 2016

Last updated:
16 November 2016
Campylobacter
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has a commitment to review its scientific research programmes on a regular basis. This latest review report focuses on the Campylobacter research programme, which covered a number of relevant funded projects.

Aim of the review

The aim of the review was to evaluate the research for scientific quality and value for money taking into account the programme’s overall objectives and to consider the possible future direction of research within the programme.

Background

The main closed review meeting was held over one full day in May 2016. This provided the reviewers the opportunity to discuss the individual projects and to form a final evaluation. As part of the review process, members of the reviewing panel attended a two-day research workshop event in March 2016 which included presentations by contractors of the FSA-funded research. This allowed the reviewing panel the opportunity to ask questions to support the evaluation process.

Initially, Campylobacter-related research projects were funded under the old Foodborne Disease Research Programme (B14). The original aims of this programme were:

  • to provide robust information on the presence, growth, survival and elimination of micro-organisms throughout the food chain
  • to provide the extent, distribution, causes and costs of foodborne disease.

Within this theme, research was commissioned in support of the Agency's strategy to achieve a reduction in the incidence of foodborne disease by 20% over a five-year period. 

Campylobacter was of particular focus in the B14 programme given that it was the major cause of infectious intestinal disease (IID). 

Work undertaken included the contribution made by the food chain to the problem of Campylobacter. Some of the work funded under the previous programme is still ongoing and will be referred to within this report. The Campylobacter Risk Management programme was implemented as part of the FSA’s 2010-2015 Foodborne Disease Strategy. This was as a result of the continued rise in the number of laboratory confirmed cases of foodborne pathogens, in particular Campylobacter.

The Review

The overall aim of this review was to assess whether the Programme had met its scientific and policy objectives and to make recommendations on the future direction of the FSA’s Campylobacter programme.

The reviewing panel consisted of individuals whose expertise covered microbiology and epidemiology. Reviewers were assigned an even number of projects to ensure they had the time to carry out their evaluations effectively. Where possible, reviewers were provided with the original research requirement proposal that had led to the work being commissioned, the project proposal/contract and/or scope of work and any interim or final reports (either draft or final depending on stage of project).

The reviewers were also provided with abstract summaries on most of the projects whilst in attendance at the Campylobacter research workshop, which was held over two days in March 2016 in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

Outcomes

A number of conclusions were obtained from the review. The majority of the FSA-funded Campylobacter-related projects appeared to address FSA policy needs and they encapsulated different sections of the food chain. Overall, the quality of the projects was variable, but most appeared to cover what was felt to be important research. There were a number of good outcomes from some of the completed research however, it was recommended to the FSA that there is a need to ensure relevant audiences, for example caterers and food businesses, are able to access the final reports with ease. Evidence of jointly funded research had been observed and was commended.

Going forward, several recommendations were made to improve the programme. The programme would benefit from the inclusion of as many real-life scenario style projects as possible, especially if they were intervention-focused. More attention should also be paid to statistical analysis in evaluations of relevant research.

The Foodborne Disease Control team said: “We welcome this review report and have ensured that all possible concerns raised have been addressed. We are currently considering the research gaps. We thank the reviewing panel for their hard work in evaluating this large programme of research.”

Full details can be obtained from the Campyloacter Programme Review report, attached below.

Foodborne illness research at the FSA