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Broiler carcasses exiting an automated
feather-picking machine in the pilot poultry processing facility at the Russell
Research Center. Click the image for more information about it.
Progress Made in Reducing Campylobacter in
Poultry By Sharon Durham February 17, 2006
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have identified and
investigated two hot spots in poultry production where
contamination with Campylobacter bacteria may occur.
Campylobacter are foodborne pathogens that can be present in
raw or undercooked poultry. These bacteria cause mild to severe diarrhea and
fever in humans, and can sometimes result in the secondary, neurological
condition known as Guillian-Barre syndrome. Since these bacteria are commonly
found in the digestive tracts of swine, cattle and poultry, theyre
readily deposited onto trucks and trailers when the animals are transported to
processing plants. Getting live poultry to processing plants also involves
confining the birds in transport coops for long periods.
Its possible to reduce Campylobacter during poultry
transport and processing with simple measures. But simple
doesnt always translate into immediately feasible.
Berrang, in ARS
Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance Research Unit, and food
Northcutt, in the ARS
Processing Research Unitboth at Athens, Ga.have evaluated the
role of transport coops and carcass defeathering as critical points at which
Campylobacter contamination of broilers and broiler carcasses occurs.
The research team found that feces from Campylobacter-positive
birds can contaminate the feathers and skin of Campylobacter-negative
birds later placed in the same soiled transport coop. Allowing the coops to dry
for 48 hours before reuse dramatically lowered Campylobacter numbers.
But since this approach is economically and logistically impractical,
the scientists plan to explore ways to redesign the coops to make them easier
to clean. According to Berrang, washing coops with water and disinfectant can
reduce the Campylobacter levels, but it isnt reliable and
doesnt eliminate the microbes.
The second critical contamination point occurs during an early step in
processingfeather removal. While, overall, processing decreases
Campylobacter numbers on carcasses, this step increases them. To control
the microbes, processors must work against this jump in numbers throughout the
rest of processing. Berrang and Northcutt have shown that the Campylobacter
increase is caused by the escape of highly contaminated fecal matter from
the birds lower gut during feather removal. They are now investigating
methods to minimize this source of contamination.
more about this research in the February 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.