A move to scrub poo from dirty chicken crates has spared New Zealanders from hundreds of cases of painful diarrhoea-inducing campylobacter, authorities say.
New research presented to a health conference has revealed that New Zealand's once-dire problem with the painful and embarrassing gastro bug is a thing of the past thanks to industry changes.
At its peak, the country's campylobacter epidemic was the worst in the western world, costing $60 million a year, mostly in lost wages from people forced to take days off work to nurse their sore stomachs and stop the contagious spread.
Infected poultry was a leading source of the condition.
Gail Duncan from the Ministry for Primary Industries told the NZ Population Health Congress in Auckland that simple changes to poultry processing regulations led to a radical 58 per cent drop in infections.
A key change was to start washing the crates used to transport chickens to the processing plants, creating a cleaner environment and halting the cross contamination that was fuelling the epidemic.
Equipment was also upgraded to make processing more efficient and hygienic, she said.
The rates dropped in 2008 and have remained low since, although further improvements would save taxpayers $20 million a year.