Lactic acid, commonly used in foods as a
flavoring or preservative, reduces Salmonella in two major organs in
broiler chickens, according to ARS
studies in College Station, Texas.
One organ, called the crop, is part of the chicken's esophagus, which leads
from the mouth to the stomach. The other organ, the ceca, is a pouch connected
to the large intestine.
"Both the crop and ceca are especially prone to bacterial
contamination," says microbiologist J. Allen Byrd, of the ARS Food and
Feed Safety Research Unit.
Eight to 10 hours before slaughter, broiler chickens are usually taken off feed
to reduce intestinal contents. During this time, they look for food and peck at
whatever is on the ground. What the birds eat enters the crop and is slowly
released into the stomach. If Salmonella is present, the highest
concentration is found in the ceca. But the amount of bacteria in the crop is
also significant because it ruptures 86 times more often than the ceca during
By adding 2 tablespoons of lactic acid to 1.2 gallons of the chickens' drinking
water, scientists reduced Salmonella by 41.5 percent in the crop and by
11.2 percent in the ceca, compared to birds drinking plain water.
Why would this simple tactic thwart one of the worst foodborne pathogens in
poultry? Lactic acid acidifies crop contents, making them less conducive to
bacterial growth. This method is an inexpensive way to help keep foodborne
pathogens at baythe cost is about 0.2 cents per bird using food-grade
lactic acid. Researchers are studying other tactics to identify potential hot
spots in the processing chain that may lead to bacterial contamination.
Salmonella can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and sometimes death. The
bacteria, which can be killed by thoroughly cooking food, sicken an estimated
3.8 million Americans each year.By
McGraw, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
J. Allen Byrd is in the USDA-ARS
Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, 2881
F&B Road, College Station, TX 77845; phone (979) 260-9331, fax (979)
"Lactic Acid Reduces Microbes in Poultry" was
published in the November 2000
issue of Agricultural Research magazine.