IRELAND: Campylobacter controls in the poultry food chain
Posted: August 31st, 2011 - 7:01pm
Source: FSAI News Vol 13, Issue 4
The FSAI recently published a report of its Scientific Committee, ‘Recommendations for a Practical Control Programme for Campylobacter in the Poultry Production and Slaughter Chain’; which recommends a series of measures to be taken by poultry farmers, processors and retailers to reduce the incidence of the harmful campylobacter bacteria in poultry.
Campylobacteriosis is the most frequently reported gastrointestinal bacterial illness in humans in Ireland and across the EU. National data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows that in 2009, 1,808 cases of campylobacteriosis were reported and the provisional figure for 2010 is 1,666. A number of risk factors have been associated with human campylobacteriosis. These include the consumption and/or handling of raw or undercooked poultry or other meats, raw milk, surface waters, cross-contamination of ready-to-eat foods during food preparation as well as direct contact with animals.
Poultry is regarded as one of the most important reservoirs for Campylobacter spp. and constitutes a very significant vehicle for the transmission to humans. A scientific opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) estimates that handling and preparation of chicken and consumption of undercooked chicken meat accounts for approximately 30% of human cases of bacterial campylobacteriosis, while 50% to 80% may be attributed to the chicken reservoir as a whole.
The scientific report recommends that the Irish poultry industry develops and implements its own voluntary code of practice based on the recommended control measures detailed in the report, such as:
Improved on-farm hygiene and restricting access to possible sources of contamination (i.e. improved biosecurity)
A voluntary monitoring programme on the farm and in the slaughterhouse to alert farmers and processors when additional controls are needed and to enable them to assess the effectiveness of their control measures. As part of this monitoring programme, it proposes microbiological criteria in broilers (i.e. pre-harvest) and on carcasses (i.e. post-harvest); which should be validated and then subjected to periodic review; taking into account the results generated by pre- and post-harvest analyses and of emerging research.
The report recommends that an incentive scheme should be adopted by the industry to reward high standards of biosecurity and compliance with the pre-harvest microbiological criterion. It suggests that the incentive scheme could take the form of a bonus and/or penalty scheme and that repeated breaches of the pre-harvest criterion should result in removal from the Bord Bia Quality Assurance scheme.
Campylobacter is a naturally occurring bacterium found in the intestinal tract of birds. It is a widespread and challenging problem for the poultry sector, as demonstrated by an EFSA study which found that, on average throughout Member States, 71% of flocks presented for slaughter and 75% of whole birds at the end of the slaughter process were contaminated. In Ireland, the prevalence in broiler batches was 83% and the prevalence of contaminated carcasses was 98%. Some Members States and countries outside the EU have been quite effective in reducing contamination in poultry and this report draws on their experience.
In recognition of the fact that dramatic improvements are unlikely to be achieved quickly, the report calls on retailers to ensure that raw chicken is packaged in leak-proof packaging with safe handling and cooking instructions clearly visible at time of purchase. It recommends that labels should advise consumers that whole birds are ready-to-cook and that in the interests of safe handling, washing of the carcass should be avoided, as this can significantly spread contamination around the kitchen. In addition, as many Irish people have a tendency to wash chicken meat, the advice not to wash chicken should be carried on portions as well.
A copy of this report on Campylobacter is available on our website at the following link http://bit.ly/mX412W.