Association of Campylobacter Levels Between Chicken Grow-out Environmental Samples and Processed Carcasses

Researchers at Virginia Tech have found a good indication of Campylobacter contamination and transmission in the number of the bacteria in the broiler house, together with carcass rinse data. Their results offer a way to schedule the processing sequence of flocks in order to cut post-slaughter pathogen transmission.
calendar icon 17 March 2014
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Campylobacter spp. have been isolated from live poultry, production environments, processing facilities and raw poultry products. Environmental sampling in a poultry grow-out house, combined with carcass rinse sampling from the same flock, may provide a relative relationship between pre- and postharvest Campylobacter contamination, according to Matthew W. Schroeder and colleagues at Virginia Tech.

In their paper in Poultry Science, they report that they collected air samples, faecal/litter samples and feed/drink line samples from four commercial chicken grow-out houses in western Virginia between September 2011 and January 2012.

Birds from each sampled house were the first flock slaughtered the following day and were then sampled by post-chill carcass rinses.

Campylobacter, from post-enrichment samples, was detected in 27 per cent (32/120) of house environmental samples and 37.5 per cent (45/120) of carcass rinse samples.

All environmental sample types from each house included at least one positive sample except the House 2 air samples.

The sponge sample method was found to have a significantly higher (P<0.05) proportion of Campylobacter-positive samples (45 per cent) than the faecal/litter samples (20 per cent) and air samples (15 per cent) when sample types of all the houses were compared.

The proportion positive for the faecal/litter samples post-enrichment, for each flock, had the highest correlation (0.85) to the proportion of positive carcass rinse samples for each flock.

Environmental samples from House 1 and associated carcass rinses accounted for the largest number of Campylobacter positives (29/60). The fewest number of Campylobacter positives, based on both house environmental (4/30) and carcass rinse samples (8/30), was detected from Flock B.

The results of this study suggest that environmental sampling in a poultry grow-out house, combined with carcass rinse sampling from the same flock, have the potential to provide an indication of Campylobacter contamination and transmission, concluded Schroeder and colleagues.

They added that Campylobacter qualitative levels from house and processing plant samples may enable the scheduled processing of flocks with lower pathogen incidence or concentrations, as a way to reduce post-slaughter pathogen transmission.


Schroeder M.W., J.D. Eifert, M.A. Ponder and D.G. Schmale III. 2014. Association of Campylobacter spp. levels between chicken grow-out environmental samples and processed carcasses. Poultry Science. 93(3):734-741. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03646

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March 2014

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