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Counts of Campylobacter spp. on U.S. Broiler Carcasses

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Foodborne Campylobacter-associated gastroenteritis remains a public health concern, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that improperly handled poultry is the most important source of this human disease. In response to these concerns, 10 of the largest U.S. poultry integrators cooperatively determined the incidence and counts of Campylobacter on processed broiler carcasses. Prior to conducting the survey, laboratory personnel were trained in a direct Campy-Cefex plating procedure for enumeration of the organism. Before and after the survey enumeration, consistency in reporting was compared among the participating laboratories. Participating laboratories were able to consistently estimate inoculated concentrations of Campylobacter in carcass rinses. Within the central study, we determined the potential exposure of U.S. consumers to Campylobacter spp. associated with broiler carcasses during a 13-month period. Among each of the 13 participating poultry complexes, rinses from 25 randomly selected fully processed carcasses were sampled monthly from individual flocks. Among 4,200 samples, approximately 74% of the carcasses yielded no countable Campylobacter cells. Campylobacter spp. were isolated from approximately 3.6% of all commercially processed broiler carcasses at more than 105 CFU per carcass. Acceptable counts of these organisms on raw poultry carcasses remain to be determined. Nevertheless, this survey indicates industry recognition of its responsibility to assess and reduce public exposure to Campylobacter through broiler chickens.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, South Atlanta Area, Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit, Russell Research Center, Athens, Georgia 30604, USA 2: National Chicken Council, Washington, D.C. 20005, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2006

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