Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 16, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Campylobacter is a common bacteria that can cause illness and death in humans consuming contaminated poultry products. Poultry meat may become contaminated with Campylobacter during the slaughter process when the birds are going through the processing plant. It is important to identify the major points in the processing plant where Campylobacter spreads to chicken. We found that the crop, an internal organ, of chickens often contains Campylobacter bacteria and that rupture of the crop during processing can spread the bacteria to the chicken carcass and plant machinery. This finding is important because it will aid in designing management practices to reduce or prevent contamination of meat and machinery by this foodborne bacterial pathogen, thereby reducing the public risk of food poisoning.
Technical Abstract: Previously research has identified cecal and intestinal contents as sources for Campylobacter contamination of broiler carcasses in the processing plant. During the present study, we evaluated the crop contents of pre-harvest market-age broilers as a potential reservoir of field- derived Campylobacter in the processing plant. Crops were collected aseptically from 40 randomly-selected market-age broilers in each of 9 commercial broiler flocks. Ceca were collected from broilers in 6 of the same flocks for comparison with the crop samples. The presence of Campylobacter in the crops and ceca was determined by enrichment culture in modified Bolton broth followed by culture on Campy-ceflex plates. Campylobacter was isolated from the crop contents of broilers in 7 of the 9 flocks and from the cecal contents in 3 of 6 flocks. The incidence of Campylobacter-positive crop samples among all flocks evaluated (224/359; 62%) was significantly higher (P<.001) when compared with the number of positive cecal samples (9/240; 4%). The results indicate that the incidence of Campylobacter contamination of crop contents may exceed that of the cecal contents by as much as 15.5-fold in some broiler flocks, and may represent a critical pre-processing control point in reducing Campylobacter entry into the processing plant.