The number of people infected by the campylobacter germ in Doncaster could be set to rise further, healthcare officials have warned.
According to figures obtained by the Doncaster Free Press, some 1,479 residents of the borough have been infected by the intestinal disease since April 2012.
Since the bacteria is a common cause of food poisoning, Doncaster's director of public health has insisted that anyone preparing meat in particular needs to be careful when they are working on meals.
Dr Tony Baxter issued the warning ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend - a period in which many people traditionally eat barbecued meat. "Barbecued food may look well cooked when it isn't," he commented.
"Make sure that burgers, sausages and chicken are properly cooked by cutting into the meat and checking that it is steaming hot all the way through, that none of it is pink and that any juices run clear."
Dr Baxter suggested that if food is being prepared for a large number of people, it could be wise to cook meat in an oven and use a barbecue only to finish it off and create the required flavour.
Figures published in the Doncaster Free Press also revealed that between April 2013 and March 2014, 475 cases of campylobacter were reported.
This put it ahead of any other type of food-borne infectious disease that environmental health officials investigated throughout this period.
Food Standards Agency
Reducing the number of people who fall sick because of campylobacter is already a priority for the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
According to the regulator, it is responsible for approximately 460,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK, along with 110 deaths and 22,000 hospitalisations.
The FSA stated that poultry is involved in a "significant proportion" of these cases, with a survey from 2007/08 showing that nearly two-thirds of chicken on general sale in shops was contaminated with the bacteria.
Catherine Brown, chief executive of the body, described the prevalence of campylobacter as a "persistent and serious problem. We want to encourage and see producers, processors and retailers treat campylobacter reduction not simply as a technical issue but as a core business priority," she insisted.
Ms Brown stated that since this is a difficult and complex issue, many companies in the food industry have accepted the fact that high levels of contamination are inevitable and that it cannot be prevented.
However, she said there are some "encouraging signs" that businesses are changing their attitude and being more proactive in dealing with this matter.
Consumers Must Know Their Rights
This comes after consumer group Which? insisted it is important for people to know their rights if they fall ill with food poisoning while eating out.
The organisation stated that in this situation, they could argue a restaurant has "breached its contract to provide food prepared with reasonable care and skill".
Which? stated that people might also be entitled to claim compensation from the eatery, in which case they would have to lodge a personal injury claim for food poisoning.
By Francesca Witney