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item Stern, Norman
item Cray, Paula
item Bailey, Joseph
item Cox Jr, Nelson
item Craven, Stephen
item Hiett, Kelli
item Musgrove, Michael
item Ladely, Scott
item Cosby, Douglas

Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/27/2001
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Campylobacter is the leading bacterial causative agent of human enteric disease in the United States. The CDC indicates that poultry borne infection is implicated in over 50% of these human cases. We attempted to determine the main sources of Campylobacter in broiler infection during poultry production. In cooperation with four of the nation's largest broiler companies, we surveyed 32 flocks for the organism through every phase of chicken production and processing. In the majority of flocks, Campylobacter was not excreted by the chickens until at least 4 weeks after placement. Of these flocks, only 6 of 28 were found to have environmental positive sources in advance of the birds excreting the organism. These environmental sources included poultry house drag swabs, a mouse rinse, insects, wild bird feces, and domestic animal feces. The majority of flocks appeared to have been infected by a source undetected by our sampling procedure and protocol. Such a source could potentially have been the fertile hatching eggs, with the breeder flocks providing the broiler origin of the Campylobacter. These findings will be valuable to the industry in creating subsequent intervention strategies to control or eliminate the organism. By obtaining this information we begin to learn of the various risk factors involved in transmission of Campylobacter through poultry operations and to instruct us on the potential areas to direct control measures.

Technical Abstract: A study of 32 broiler flocks was conducted on eight different farms, belonging to four major US producers. The farms were studied over one complete calendar year. Overall, 28 (87.5%) of the flocks became campylobacter-positive and only four remained negative throughout the 6-8 week rearing period. In the majority of flocks, sampled at bi-weekly intervals, campylobacter-positive fecal/caecal samples were not detected until 4-8 weeks of age. In only six of the flocks environmental samples were found to be positive before shedding of campylobacter was detected in the birds. Even in some of the campylobacter-negative flocks contamination of the rearing environment was found, but did not result in the birds subsequently excreting the organism. These findings are discussed in relation to US husbandry practices and present uncertainty about sources of campylobacter infection for poultry flocks. Birds were often transported to the processing plant in coops that were already contaminated with campylobacter and the organisms were sometimes found in samples of scald water and chill water. After chilling, the proportions of campylobacter-positive carcasses from different producers ranged from 21.0% to 40.9%, which is lower than in other studies, and possible reasons are offered.