Health

Experts evaluate methods to control Campylobacter in chicken meat

According to scientists, no interventions precisely control Campylobacter on meat.

Several methods have been tested with mixed success. Some showed promise in reducing prevalence in specific stages of production, while others had little to no effect.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) document found effective Campylobacter interventions are still minimal.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbial Risk Assessment (JEMRA) previously released a report on measures to control Salmonella in poultry meat.

The final report on Campylobacter is also available in the Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA) series. Scientists reviewed data on Campylobacter control, including scientific literature published from 2008 to October 2022 and data submitted in response to a call.

JEMRA met in Rome, Italy, in February 2023 in response to a request from the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene. The objectives were identifying and assessing control measures for Campylobacter in the broiler production chain. The scope ranged from the point of chick placement into producing establishments to consumer handling.

Example methods and effectiveness
Primary production interventions discussed included biosecurity, vaccination, bacteriophages, feed and water additives, and probiotics.

Processing measures covered chemical processing aids, physical treatment such as irradiation or freezing meat, and steps such as logistic slaughter and scalding. The post-processing interventions mentioned were thorough cooking and following good hygienic practices.

Steam, ultrasonication, high-intensity light pulse, visible light, and UV-C have shown promise at laboratory or pilot scale, but their impact is unknown at commercial scale.

Experts said biosecurity measures remain the single most effective tool to reduce contamination at all primary production stages and should form the foundation of any intervention strategy.

Currently, no commercial vaccines are readily available for any stage of primary production, but several potential candidates are in the proof-of-concept phase.

Studies have found differences in the effectiveness of chemical processing aids, reporting factors such as initial contamination, amount of organic matter on the bird and carcass, and chemical application conditions responsible for variation in Campylobacter reduction levels.

Defeathering and evisceration during processing are associated with increased carcass contamination prevalence and concentration.

Good hygiene practices and appropriate training of food handlers in commercial kitchens are essential to reduce the risk of cross-contamination between raw meats and finished cooked products. Using proper sanitizing agents and washing procedures for chopping boards, surfaces, and kitchen tools can help reduce the risk of human exposure.

“Employing a combination of processing effects, including physical and/or chemical interventions, can enhance the impact of Campylobacter control measures. It is common to employ a multi-hurdle approach to reduce Campylobacter contamination in chicken processing synergistically,” said the report.

“While interventions to reduce Campylobacter in chicken processing have shown some promise, further research is needed to identify effective interventions that can be implemented on a large scale.”

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