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Preventing Campylobacter contamination in poultry processing

Sharon Durham, an Agricultural Research Service Informational Service writer with the USDA, wrote about solutions to Campyloacter contamination in poultry processing facilities in Poultry Today.  Her article was based on research at USDA’s ARS.

One foodborne pathogen of particular interest is campylobacter, which may cause mild to severe diarrhea and fever in humans and possibly result in a secondary, neurological condition known as Guillain-BarrÈ Syndrome. Campylobacter is commonly found in the intestinal tracts of swine, cattle and poultry. It may be deposited onto trucks, trailers and coops when the animals are transported to processing plants.


Interestingly, she points out that:

Studies by Berrang and Northcutt revealed that, overall, broiler processing decreases campylobacter numbers on carcasses, but feather removal (one of the first steps) increases them. Processors then have to work against this jump in numbers through the rest of the process to control the microbe. Berrang, Northcutt and colleagues determined that the increase is caused by escape of highly contaminated fecal matter from the cloaca (lower gut) during feather removal.

"Manipulation of the carcass by the feather-picking machine causes leakage of fecal matter, which contaminates the carcass," says Berrang. He and others are investigating methods to minimize this source of contamination, including flushing or plugging the cloaca before defeathering.