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item Berrang, Mark
item Northcutt, Julie
item Cox Jr, Nelson

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Poultry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/6/2003
Publication Date: 1/1/2003
Citation: Berrang, M.E., Northcutt, J.K., Fletcher, D.L., Cox Jr, N.A. 2003. Role of dump cage fecal contamination in the transfer of campylobacter to carcasses of previously negative broilers. Journal of Applied Poultry Research. 12(2):190-195.

Interpretive Summary: Campylobacter is a human bacterial pathogen that is associated with poultry. Most broiler flocks are positive for the presence of this organism, some flocks are negative. However, negative flocks can be contaminated due to cross contamination during catching, transport and processing. This study was done to examine the possibility that fecal matter left in a transport cage following the removal of Campylobacter positive broilers can contaminate Campylobacter negative birds placed in the same cage. Broilers from Campylobacter positive grow-out houses were held in transport cages for 8 hours. After removal of the positive broilers, Campylobacter negative broilers were placed into the same containers. Following 2, 4 or 6 hours of exposure to the feces left behind by Campylobacter positive birds, the carcasses of more than 50% of previously negative broilers were contaminated with Campylobacter. The contamination acquired by live broilers in transport cages was detected after slaughter and initial processing (scalding and defeathering). These data confirm soiled transport cages as a potential source of Campylobacter cross contamination that can remain on the carcass in the processing plant. This information is useful to researchers and producers studying potential intervention steps to limit Campylobacter contamination acquired during transport.

Technical Abstract: This study was undertaken to measure the potential for broiler carcass contamination with Campylobacter due to exposure of live birds to a contaminated dump cage. Broilers were obtained from commercial grow-out houses that had been previously identified as either Campylobacter positive or negative by culturing feces. Broilers from a Campylobacter positive house were placed into a new un-used 5 level commercial dump cage and held for 8 hours. When broilers from the positive house were removed and processed, broilers from the Campylobacter negative house were placed into the same openings of the dump cage. Broilers from the negative house remained in the cage, exposed to the feces of the Campylobacter positive broilers, for 2, 4, or 6 hours before being removed and processed. Carcasses from each group were examined for the presence and number of Campylobacter. After 2, 4, and 6 hours of exposure to the contaminated dump cage, more than 50% of defeathered carcasses from previously negative broilers had detectable levels of Campylobacter. These data demonstrate that transportation of Campylobacter negative broilers in a contaminated container can result in carcass contamination with Campylobacter.