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Rise in poisoning cases puzzles experts

Experts are puzzled at the rise in cases of campylobacter -- the most common cause of food poisoning.

There were 2,440 official cases notified in the Republic last year, which is a rise of 46.9pc over 2010.

Its largest group of victims are children under four years of age, according to the disease watchdog, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of Ireland.

It pointed out that the increase in cases has been examined in a range of countries in the past but beyond theories about consumption of poorly cooked poultry no firm explanation for any rise was found.

"A wide range of potential causes have been identified to explain progressive rises in campylobacter incidences, from climate change through altered pathways of wild bird migration," it said.

Previously studies carried out in the Republic and the North found the most important risk factors linked to contaminations including consuming undercooked chicken, lettuce or eating takeaways.

Tips to avoid getting sick include:

- Lots of people think they should wash raw chicken but there's no need. Any germs on it will be killed if you cook it thoroughly.

In fact, if you do wash chicken, you could splash germs onto the sink, worktop, dishes or anything else nearby.

- Take care to keep raw food away from ready-to-eat foods such as bread, salad and fruit. These foods won't be cooked before you eat them so any germs that get on to them won't be killed.

- Use different chopping boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods.

- When storing raw meat, always keep it in a clean, sealed container and place it on the bottom shelf of the fridge where it can't touch or drip on to other foods.

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- When cooking burgers, sausages, chicken and pork, cut into the middle to check that the meat is no longer pink, that any juices run clear and that it's piping hot (steam is coming out).

- When cooking a whole chicken or other bird, pierce the thickest part of the leg (between the drumstick and the thigh) to check that there is no pink meat and that the juices are no longer pink or red.

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