Objective: To determine whether parentally reported habitual intake of specific foods differed between children with diagnosed Campylobacter jejuni infection and children of a comparison group without diagnosed infection.
Design, setting and subjects: Information was collected from the parents or primary caregivers of South Australian children aged 1–5 years with diagnosed C. jejuni (cases, n=172) and an age- and gender-matched group of uninfected children (controls, n=173). Frequency of consumption of 106 food and drink items was determined for the preceding two months by food-frequency questionnaire. Four children in the control group had recorded diarrhoeal episodes during the assessment period and were excluded, so 169 responses were evaluated for this group. Information was gathered on possible confounders including socio-economic status. Response frequencies were classified into three levels of consumption (rarely, weekly or daily) and statistical comparison was made by frequency of consumption of foods versus the ‘rarely’ classification for cases and controls, respectively.
Results: Frequency of consumption of most foods, including starchy foods and fruits and vegetables, did not differ between cases and controls. However, reported consumption of eight food items (block and processed cheese (slices and spread), salami/fritz (a form of processed sausage), chicken nuggets, pasteurised milk, fish (canned or fresh) and hot French fries) was significantly higher by controls.
Conclusions: The hypothesis that reported consumption of starchy foods was lower by cases than by controls was not supported by the data. However, consumption of some processed and unprocessed foods was higher by controls. Some of these foods have established bactericidal actions in vitro that may indicate a possible mechanism for this apparent protection.