Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 5, 2004
Publication Date: December 1, 2004
Citation: Berrang, M.E., Dickens, J.A. 2004. The contribution of soiled surfaces within feather picking machines to campylobacter counts on broiler carcasses. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 13(4):588-592. Interpretive Summary: Campylobacter is a human bacterial pathogen that is associated with poultry and can be found commonly on poultry meat. Previous studies have shown that the numbers of Campylobacter on broiler carcasses increases during feather removal. Research has shown that the numbers increase due to leakage of gut contents during feather removal. Another study showed that contaminated air around the feather removal machinery did not cause an increase in Campylobacter numbers. This study was designed to test the possibility that soiled surfaces of feather removal machinery can cause an increase in Campylobacter numbers on broiler carcasses. Fully processed broiler carcasses with low numbers of Campylobacter were passed though a series of feather picking machines that had just been used to remove feathers from 20,000 broilers. These naturally soiled feather picking machines did not cause any significant increase in the numbers of Campylobacter associated with the test broiler carcasses in 4 out of 5 replications. In one replication an increase in Campylobacter numbers was noted. It is possible for contact with soiled surfaces within feather picking machines to increase Campylobacter numbers detected on broiler carcasses. However, overall these data suggest that naturally contaminated surfaces of feather picking machines are not a primary cause of the reported increase in Campylobacter numbers during defeathering
Technical Abstract: Numbers of Campylobacter detected on broiler carcasses decrease due to scalding but rebound during defeathering. Earlier research indicated that escape of gut contents during defeathering is an important contributor to the increase in Campylobacter numbers while aerosols created by feather picking machines are not. The objective of this study was to determine if contact with surfaces in naturally contaminated commercial feather picking machines contributes to the increased counts of Campylobacter on broiler carcasses. Fully processed chilled carcasses with low numbers of Campylobacter were used as a platform to measure numbers after picking. Chilled carcasses were hung on shackles and allowed to proceed through three empty feather picking machines in a commercial processing plant that had been previously soiled by about 20,000 broilers. In four of five replications, although Campylobacter numbers increased on plant run control birds due to defeathering, no increase in Campylobacter numbers was noted on chilled carcasses due to passage through the pickers. In one replication however, a significant increase was observed. It is possible for contact with soiled surfaces within feather picking machines to increase Campylobacter numbers detected on broiler carcasses. However, overall these data suggest that naturally contaminated surfaces of feather picking machines are not a primary cause of the reported increase in Campylobacter numbers during defeathering.