Campylobacter is the second most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the United States after Salmonella. Over 3,000 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2003, or 12.6 cases for each 100,000 persons in the population. Many more cases go undiagnosed and unreported, with estimates as high as 2 to 4 million cases per year. It is estimated that each case costs $920 on average due to medical and productivity (lost wages) expenses with an annual total cost of $1.2 billion.
Chicken is the most common food implicated. Any raw poultry—chicken, turkey, duck, goose, game fowl—meat and its juices may contain Campylobacter including organic and “free-range” products. Other foods include unpasteurized milk, undercooked meats such as beef, pork, lamb, and livestock offal, and occasionally shellfish, fresh produce, and eggs.
Most cases of Campylobacter infection occur as isolated, sporadic events, and are not usually part of large outbreaks. But, very large outbreaks (>1,000 illnesses) of campylobacteriosis have been documented, most often from consumption of contaminated milk or unchlorinated water supplies.