Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320757

Title: Detection of Campylobacter on the outer surface of retail broiler chicken meat packages and on product within

item Berrang, Mark
item OAKLEY, BRIAN - Former ARS Employee
item Meinersmann, Richard - Rick

Submitted to: Food Protection Trends
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/12/2015
Publication Date: 5/2/2016
Citation: Berrang, M.E., Oakley, B., Meinersmann, R.J. 2016. Detection of Campylobacter on the outer surface of retail broiler chicken meat packages and on product within. Food Protection Trends. 36(3):176-182.

Interpretive Summary: Campylobacter is a human pathogen that has been associated with chicken and chicken meat products. There have been reports of Campylobacter being found on the outer surface of packaged chicken meat purchased at retail which is cause for concern relative to consumer exposure. In this work we examined the outside and inside of 105 packages of fresh chicken meat (whole carcass or parts) purchased at retail for Campylobacter contamination. We found that although 39% of the product was positive for Campylobacter, only one package had detectable Campylobacter on the outside. The externally positive package was one of 6 that were deemed to be leaking liquid. When subjected to sophisticated DNA sequence based subtyping, the Campylobacter form the outside of the package was found to be identical to that detected on the product in that same package. Although the liquid can contain Campylobacter and most whole carcasses were positive, we found that volume of liquid was not related to Campylobacter presence on packaged fresh poultry parts. Overall, 29 different subtypes of Campylobacter were detected on poultry meat from retail, presence was not significantly associated with store, brand or amount of liquid found associated with cut-up chicken parts. A consumer can feel confident that if they select a package of fresh chicken meat that is not leaking and dry, the outer surface will be Campylobacter free regardless of the potential for Campylobacter to be present on the meat within the package.

Technical Abstract: The objective of this study was to compare prevalence of Campylobacter on the outside of broiler meat packages to the product inside the same packages. Chicken meat products were purchased at retail. Samples comprised whole carcasses and six different cut-up part products. Fifteen packages of each type of product were purchased (N=105). The exterior surface of each package was sampled, the package was sanitized, opened and exudate or product rinse was collected. Samples were cultured for the presence of Campylobacter spp. Overall, 41 of 105 packages (39%) had detectable numbers of Campylobacter associated with the product within. This included some of each type of product. One of 105 packages had detectable numbers of Campylobacter on the outer surfaces. That package was one of six characterized as leaky. Campylobacter isolates were subtyped using multi-locus sequence typing; 29 sequence types identified were either C. jejuni (n=19) or C. coli (n=10). The outer surface isolate was the same subtype as the associated exudate isolate. Although a variety of Campylobacter subtypes were found on the inside of a substantial percentage of retail broiler meat packages , the outer surface of intact, non-leaky packages can be reasonably expected to be free of Campylobacter.