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Evaluation of the “testing and scheduling” strategy for control of Campylobacter in broiler meat in The Netherlands

Nauta, M.J., van der Wal, F.J., Putirulan, F.F., Post, J., van de Kassteele, J., Bolder, N.M.
International journal of food microbiology 2009 v.134 no.3 pp. 216-222
broiler chickens, chicken meat, Campylobacter, food pathogens, food microbiology, bacterial contamination, food contamination, disease control, feces, disease surveillance, slaughterhouses, disease prevalence, cecum, breast muscle, plate count, rapid methods, quantitative analysis, accuracy, disease transmission, meat packing plants, Netherlands
“Testing and scheduling” has been proposed as a strategy for control of Campylobacter in broiler meat. By this strategy, flocks with high numbers of Campylobacter in fecal samples would be diverted away from fresh meat production at the entrance of the broiler meat processing plant. Risk assessment studies suggest that this would effectively decrease human health risks, if these flocks are responsible for the meat products with the highest Campylobacter numbers. To investigate the effect of this control strategy, the numbers of Campylobacter were determined in fecal samples from transport containers, and in cecal and breast meat samples from birds in 62 broiler chicken flocks. Results from direct plating and enrichment were combined by a statistical method that allows the inclusion of censored data. As the implementation of “testing and scheduling” requires a rapid on-site test to detect high numbers of Campylobacter, a lateral flow immuno-assay (LFA) was developed and applied to the fecal samples collected from containers. The Campylobacter prevalence in broiler flocks in the autumn of 2007 was found to be 85.4% by traditional microbiological methods. Campylobacter could be isolated from breast meat samples from 42% of the flocks. There was limited agreement between Campylobacter results for the three types of samples and weak correlation between the quantitative results for fecal or cecal samples and meat samples. Agreement between the results of LFA and traditional methods was poor. These findings do not support the implementation of “testing and scheduling” as a practical control strategy, because of both measurement uncertainties and shortcomings in understanding the dynamics of transmission and survival of Campylobacter in the broiler meat processing plant. The limited correlation between Campylobacter contamination of cecal samples and breast meat samples, as observed in this study, suggests that cecal samples are no good indicator for human exposure to Campylobacter.