Experts Evaluate Methods to Control Campylobacter in Poultry

Scientists have tested a variety of interventions related to Campylobacter in poultry meat.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbial Risk Assessment (JEMRA) reviewed recent data and evidence and provided scientific advice on control measures for Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli in the broiler production chain.

Campylobacter was behind more than 95 million illnesses and 21,374 deaths in 2010 according to WHO estimates.

A document with the conclusions of the meeting on the control of Campylobacter in poultry meat before and after harvest was published to support the work of updating the related guidelines by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) . The full report will be published later as part of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA) series.

Poultry is one of the most important food vehicles for Campylobacter infections.

Information on Campylobacter control was considered, including scientific literature published between 2008 and October 2022, and data submitted in response to a call.

The experts recommended the use of a combination of multiple interventions at the production and processing stages to reduce contamination of chicken meat.

From primary production to consumer
The scientists said that strict biosecurity measures, hygienic practices and sanitation during primary production can improve Campylobacter control in broiler chicken flocks.

Contamination risk factors at primary production sites, such as partial depopulation, litter management, proximity to other cattle, and age of slaughter can help guide intervention strategies.

There are no commercial Campylobacter vaccines yet, but several potential candidates are in the proof-of-concept phase. There are no bacteriophage-based products available for primary production, plus the effects may be temporary and prone to resistance. Evidence on the effectiveness of organic acids, probiotics, and plant-based additives in feed and water is mixed.

The impact of interventions during processing depends on the prevalence of the flock and the concentration of Campylobacter in and on the bird, the experts said.

Plucking and evisceration can increase the presence of Campylobacter on carcasses, but blanching can reduce concentration and prevalence on carcass surfaces.

Chilling by immersion can reduce the concentration of Campylobacter in the carcass; however, this depends on the initial level of contamination. Air chilling can reduce the pathogen, but the efficacy, when used without other processing aids, is inconclusive.

Irradiation is effective in killing Campylobacter in meat, and freezing these products reduces the concentration of the pathogen. Steam, ultrasonication, high-intensity pulsed light, visible light, UV-C, and other technologies have shown promise on a laboratory or pilot scale, but the impact on a commercial level is unknown.

Processing aids such as chlorine derivatives, peroxyacetic acids, and organic acids added to water used for washing or dipping can reduce Campylobacter on carcasses.

Post-processing interventions include thorough cooking and good hygiene practices.

Experts said changes in the industry, population growth, climate change and increased demand for animal protein in some regions will drive the need for further evaluation of control measures.

Call for experts
A meeting on Salmonella was held in September 2022. It was found that multiple interventions are needed to control it in chickens raised for human consumption.

WHO and FAO have also called for experts to contribute to risk assessment work on Salmonella and Campylobacter.

The results of the expert meetings on the two pathogens will be used by JEMRA in developing a risk assessment for both pathogens in poultry meat.

In 2010, the WHO estimated that foodborne Salmonella caused 78 million illnesses and nearly 60,000 deaths.

JEMRA has previously evaluated Salmonella in broiler chickens and chicken meat. For Campylobacter, it conducted risk assessments in broilers and evaluated intervention measures used in chicken meat production.

The selection of participants will begin on April 30, 2023 and will continue until enough suitable candidates are identified. To apply please follow this link.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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