Research identifies ways of reducing
campylobacter in broilers
of Article: http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2009/07/13/116445/research-identifies-ways-of-reducing-campylobacter-in.html
are the main cause of bacterial food poisoning in the British Isles,
and most developed countries, and poultry is seen as a major source of
A recent study analysed 110 packs of retail
chicken from UK producers and found that 108 of these had
campylobacter. In Northern Ireland, campylobacters from clinical
samples and retail poultry were compared, using genetic fingerprinting.
This showed that about 75% found of the human isolates were effectively
the same as isolates obtained from the retail poultry.
Considerable research has shown that
relatively simple biosecurity can markedly reduce the incidence of
campylobacter-positive flocks, therefore control is possible, but
broiler producers are in the front line and they need to know the
"how and why" of campylobacter control.
In this project, researchers from the Queen's University of Belfast
and AgriFood and Biosciences
Institute reviewed latest research to produce advice and
then held a series of meetings with broiler producers across Ireland.
For a biosecurity routine to be successful,
the underlying sources of campylobacter need to be investigated. The
external environment is believed to be the major source of infection,
acting as a reservoir from which other farm animals, rodents, wild birds,
insects, people and equipment can spread the pathogen to the flock.
Cattle in particular have been highlighted as
a risk factor as they "amplify" campylobacter numbers in the
environment. People are also a major risk factor and every visit to a
broiler house has the potential to introduce infection. The effects of
personnel are greatest during thinning due to increased movement on the
farm with the introduction of catching teams and transport equipment.
Also the stress caused by the disturbance could make birds more
susceptible to infection. Increases in campylobacter infection
(positive houses) of up to 85% have been noted after thinning.
The success of simple biosecurity measures at
protecting flocks in Scandinavia is promising. These simple interventions
include having anterooms in broiler houses with physical hygiene
barriers to separate them from the outdoors with dedicated clothing and
footwear on the bird side of the barrier plus a hand wash basin to use
before putting on this clothing.
Norway has seen yearly reductions in positive
flocks since introducing its action plan, and introduction of Norwegian
like methods to a UK farm saw a 67% drop in infection rates in one
study. A novel method of using fly screens to increase biosecurity in
Denmark gave promising results. Using plastic mesh screens over
ventilation systems and other inlets reduced the number of flies by
94.4%, and the campylobacter infection rates in the peak months fell
from 50% to 15%.
During this all-Ireland study feedback from
meetings with broiler producers was positive, with the majority of
farmers indicating that they could incorporate at least some of the
measures suggested on their own farms.
Researchers in the US estimate that a
commercial campylobacter vaccine will be available in 3-5 years which
would greatly reduce numbers in broilers at the farm level. Work on
competitive exclusion products and bacteriophages could also reduce
During slaughter and processing, maintaining
good hygiene and separating positive and negative flocks decreases the
risk of cross contamination. In the kitchen avoiding direct and
indirect contact between raw meat and uncooked foods as well as
thoroughly cooking poultry will also reduce risk of infection.
In conclusion, campylobacter numbers need to
be reduced throughout the production process in order to reduce the
risk to the consumer. Reducing numbers at the source through on-farm
biosecurity is a good start, and along with complementary control
measures could go a long way in reducing the incidence of human
In a nutshell
The problem: An ever increasing number of
studies point to fresh chicken products as the major source of
campylobacter infections worldwide. This project aimed to give
producers in Ireland the latest practical advice on reducing its
incidence in flocks.
Timescale: March to May 2009.
Who conducted it: The project leader was
Robert Madden of the Food Microbiology Branch, the Agri-Food and
Biosciences Institute, Belfast, supported by Steven McMaster of the
Queen's University of Belfast.
The Food Safety Promotion Board, which has a remit throughout the
island of Ireland.
is a major cause of food poisoning worldwide
fingerprinting found that, in Northern Ireland, 75% of
campylobacters in affected people were virtually identical to those
found in retail poultry
biosecurity improvements can significantly reduce campylobacter
environment around a broiler house is the major source of
risk of infection from personnel is greatest during thinning
once a flock is infected are limited at the current time
steven mcmasters (About this Author)