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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Contribution of Airborne Contamination to Campylobacter Counts on Defeathered Broiler Carcasses

Authors
item Berrang, Mark
item Northcutt, Julie
item Dickens, James

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 11, 2003
Publication Date: January 20, 2004
Citation: Berrang, M.E., Northcutt, J.K., Dickens, J.A. 2004. The contribution of airborne contamination to campylobacter counts on defeathered broiler carcasses. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 13(1):1-4.

Interpretive Summary: Campylobacter is a bacterial human pathogen that can be found on poultry and poultry meat products. When feathers are removed from broiler carcasses, the number of Campylobacter cells on the carcass increases. Feather removal also leads to various material, including bacteria, becoming airborne. This study was conducted to examine the possibility that airborne cells can cause an increase in the number of Campylobacter recovered from broiler carcasses. Fully processed carcasses with low numbers of Campylobacter were exposed to air adjacent to operating commercial feather removal machines. No increase in the number of Campylobacter cells recovered from these carcasses was noted due to exposure to the contaminated air near feather picker machines. These data allow researchers and poultry processors to focus their efforts to improve the microbiological quality of defeathered broilers on factors other than airborne contamination.

Technical Abstract: The enteric pathogen Campylobacter can be carried into poultry processing facilities on and within live birds. Numbers of Campylobacter recovered from carcasses decrease after scalding but increase during feather removal. Mechanical feather picking causes mist as well as particles of dust, feathers, feces and other matter to become airborne around the machine. This study was conducted to determine if Campylobacter associated with broilers during defeathering can become airborne and result in contamination of other carcasses in or around a commercial defeathering machine. Carcasses with low numbers of Campylobacter were hung near an operating commercial feather picker, where they were exposed to airborne contaminants for one minute. Low numbers of Campylobacter were detected in the air near the picker. However, microbiological culture of carcasses after exposure to airborne contamination in the picker room revealed that they had no more Campylobacter than un-exposed carcasses. These data suggest that airborne contamination does not contribute to the high numbers of Campylobacter routinely found on defeathered carcasses.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014