Infectious Diseases 2024

Infectious Diseases 2024

Assessing Campylobacter control in chicken meat

14 March, 2024

In response to a request from the 52nd Session of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH), the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) convened a meeting in Rome, Italy from 6 to 10 February 2023, to collate and assess the most recent scientific information relevant to the control of thermotolerant Campylobacter in broiler production and chicken meat. The scope was focused on aspects of broiler primary production from the point of chick placement into production establishments to consumer handling. The objectives were to identify and assess control measures for Campylobacter in the broiler production chain. The expert committee reviewed the available data on Campylobacter control including scientific literature published from 2008 to October 2022 and data submitted in response to a call for data for this meeting. 
The experts recommend the use of a combination of multiple interventions (multihurdle approach) suitable to production and processing stages to lower Campylobacter contamination on chicken meat. 
The expert consultation concluded:
• Using strict biosecurity measures (hygienic practices and sanitation) can enhance the control of Campylobacter in broiler flocks. 
• Risk factors for Campylobacter contamination at primary production establishments, such as partial depopulation, litter management, down period length, proximity to other livestock and slaughter age can help guide intervention strategies. 
• Currently, there are no commercial vaccines for Campylobacter readily available for any stage of primary production, and vaccination studies were limited to C. jejuni only. 
• There are currently no bacteriophage commercial products available for use in primary production. 
• The effects of phage therapy may be transitory and prone to resistance. 
• In feed, short- and medium-chain fatty acids, and in particular, caprylic acid, show promise as feed additives in reducing Campylobacter in pilot studies. In drinking water, organic acids reduced Campylobacter in caecal/ faecal specimens at the end of the primary production period; however, the effects were not sustained to the end of production in pilot studies. 
• In feed, there is inconsistent evidence on the efficacy of probiotics as an intervention for reducing Campylobacter in broilers at primary production level. 
• In feed, the efficacy of some plant-based molecules in in vivo pilot studies showed limited reduction of Campylobacter in caecal/faecal specimens at the end of the primary production period. 
• Good hygienic practices (GHP) during processing are important in minimizing Campylobacter contamination on meat. 
• The effectiveness of interventions during processing is dependent upon the incoming flock prevalence and concentration of Campylobacter in the gastrointestinal tract and on the bird.
• The impact of processing practices can be enhanced by a combination of a multihurdle approach, processing effects, physical and/or chemical interventions. 
• Logistic slaughter scheduling can reduce Campylobacter cross-contamination. 
• Qualitative and quantitative targets for Campylobacter may be used to optimize process control. 
• Scalding reduces the carcass surface concentration and prevalence of Campylobacter. The result depends on the temperature, and dilution effect. 
• Defeathering and evisceration may increase both prevalence and concentration of Campylobacter on carcasses. 
• Immersion chilling can reduce (dilute) the carcass concentration of Campylobacter; however, this is dependent on the initial Campylobacter load on the incoming birds. 
• In combination with processing aids, immersion chilling may reduce the carcass prevalence of Campylobacter. Air chilling may reduce concentration of Campylobacter, but the efficacy of air chilling in reducing prevalence of Campylobacter when used without other processing aids is inconclusive. 
• Irradiation is effective at eliminating Campylobacter on meat. 
• Freezing meat reduces the concentration of Campylobacter. 
• Steam, ultrasonication, high-intensity light pulse, visible light, UV-C and other technologies have shown promise either at the laboratory or pilot scale, but their impact is unknown at commercial scale. 
• Processing aids such as chlorine derivatives, peroxyacetic acids, and organic acids added to water used for washing and/or dipping may reduce Campylobacter on carcasses. 
• Thorough cooking is effective at eliminating Campylobacter on meat. 
• The application of good hygiene practices is important in reducing Campylobacter on meat. 

In 2022, the overall EU/EEA notification rate was 46.9 cases per 100,000 population. In the USA, active surveillance conducted through the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) indicates that approximately 20 cases per 100,000 people are diagnosed each year.
The standard practice in the U.S. poultry industry is to wash carcasses with chemicals, which are applied as a spray or wash on the processing line.


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