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EU Studies Pathogens on Broiler Chickens

The European Food Safety Authority released the results of a survey on the prevalence of Campylobacter in broiler batches and of Campylobacter and Salmonella on broiler carcasses yesterday.  

Campylobacter and Salmonella infections are the two most frequently reported foodborne illnesses in humans in the European Union (EU), and broiler meat is considered a significant source of both campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis.  

In the first baseline survey directly investigating foodstuffs in the EU, researchers from the European Food Safety Authority sampled broiler batches from 561 slaughterhouses in 26 EU member states, Norway, and Switzerland.  Between January and December 2008, a total of 10,132 broiler batches were sampled; from each batch the caecal contents (contents of the large intestine) of 10 slaughtered chickens were tested for Campylobacter.  In addition, one carcass from the same batch was collected immediately after chilling.  The neck skin and breast skin were tested for the presence of both Campylobacter and Salmonella.

Campylobacter was found in the caecal contents of chickens and on the carcasses of chickens in all 26 participating EU Member States and the two non-Member States.  The survey found that in general higher Campylobacter counts at slaughterhouses corresponded with higher Campylobacter prevalence among the population.  

Salmonella was isolated from broiler carcasses from 22 of the 26 EU Member States and from one non-Member State.  The overall prevalence of Salmonella-contaminated broiler carcasses ranged from zero to 26.6 percent, and averaged 15.7 percent. Hungary had an exceptionally high prevalence of 85.6 percent, with the majority of isolates being Salmonella Infantis.  

Salmonella serotypes isolated from broiler carcasses were (in order of prevalence) Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Kentucky, and Salmonella Typhimurium.  Enteritidis and Typhimurium are commonly reported Salmonella serotypes in the EU.  

The European Food Safety Authority plans to use the Campylobacter and Salmonella baseline figures obtained through this study to follow trends and evaluate the impact of control and monitoring programs to reduce the prevalence of Campylobacter and Salmonella at slaughterhouses and among the general population.  

The entire study, “Analysis of the baseline survey on the prevalence of Campylobacter in broiler batches and of Campylobacter and Salmonella on broiler carcasses in the EU, 2008,” is available on the European Food Safety Authority Website.

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