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Relationships between Processing Delay and Microbial Load of Broiler Neck Skin Samples

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The measurable microbial load on poultry carcasses during processing is determined by a number of factors including farm or origin, processing hygiene, and external temperature. This study investigated associations between carcass microbial load and progressive delays to processing. A total of 30 carcasses were delayed immediately after defeathering and before evisceration in a commercial abattoir in groups of five, and were held at ambient temperature for 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 h. Delayed carcasses were reintroduced to the processing line, and quantitative assessment of total viable count, coliforms, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas spp. was undertaken on neck skin flap samples collected after carcass chilling and then pooled for each group. Sampling was repeated on 5 separate days, and the data were combined. Significant increases in total viable count (P = 0.001) and coliforms (P = 0.004), but not for S. aureus or Pseudomonas loads, were observed across the 8-h period of delay. In line with previous studies, there was significant variation in microbiological data according to sampling day. In conclusion, there is a significant and measurable decline in microbiological status of uneviscerated but defeathered poultry carcasses after an 8-h delay, but the variability of sampling results, reflecting the wide range of factors that impact microbial load, means that it is not possible to determine maximum or minimum acceptable periods of processing delay based on this criterion alone.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Hallmark Meat Hygiene, Ltd., The Old Forge, Tetbury Street, Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire GL6 9JG, UK; Haras Llavaneras Equine Reproduction Centre, Ruta 20, cuartel VI camino a Gandara, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina 2: Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ES, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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