Scientists have looked at a range of interventions related to Campylobacter in poultry meat.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbial Risk Assessment (JEMRA) reviewed recent data and evidence and provided scientific advice on control measures for Campylobacter jejuni and Campylobacter coli in the broiler production chain.

Campylobacter was behind more than 95 million illnesses and 21,374 deaths in 2010 according to WHO estimates.

A document with conclusions of the meeting on the pre-and post-harvest control of Campylobacter in poultry meat was released to support work on updating related guidelines by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH). The full report will be published later as part of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA) series.

Poultry meat is one of the most important food vehicles for Campylobacter infections.

Information on Campylobacter control, including scientific literature published between 2008 to October 2022, and data submitted in response to a call was considered.

Experts recommended the use of a combination of multiple interventions at the production and processing stages to lower the contamination on chicken meat.

From primary production to consumer
Scientists said strict biosecurity measures, hygiene practices, and sanitation during primary production can enhance the control of Campylobacter in broiler flocks.

Risk factors for contamination at primary production sites, such as partial depopulation, litter management, proximity to other livestock, and slaughter age can help guide intervention strategies.

There are as yet no commercial vaccines for Campylobacter but several potential candidates are in the proof-of-concept phase. There are no bacteriophage-based products available for primary production, plus effects may be temporary and prone to resistance. Evidence on the effectiveness of organic acids, probiotics, and plant-based additives in feed and water is mixed.

The impact of interventions during processing is dependent on the flock prevalence and concentration of Campylobacter in and on the bird said experts.

Defeathering and evisceration may increase Campylobacter on carcasses but scalding can reduce carcass surface concentration and prevalence.

Immersion chilling can reduce the carcass concentration of Campylobacter; however, this depends on the initial level of contamination. Air chilling may reduce the pathogen but efficacy, when used without other processing aids, is inconclusive.

Irradiation is effective at eliminating Campylobacter from meat and freezing such products reduces the concentration of the pathogen. Steam, ultrasonication, high-intensity light pulse, visible light, UV-C, and other technologies have shown promise at the laboratory or pilot scale but the commercial-level impact is unknown.

Processing aids such as chlorine derivatives, peroxyacetic acids, and organic acids added to water used for washing and or dipping may reduce Campylobacter on carcasses.

Post-processing interventions include thorough cooking and good hygiene practices.

Experts said changes to the industry, growing populations, climate change, and increased demand for animal protein in some regions will guide the need for further assessment of control measures.

Call for experts
A meeting covering Salmonella was held in September 2022. This found multiple interventions are needed to control it in chickens raised for human consumption.

WHO and FAO have also issued a call for experts to contribute to risk assessment work on Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Outcomes from the expert meetings on the two pathogens will be used by JEMRA in the development of a risk assessment for both pathogens in poultry meat.

In 2010, WHO estimated that foodborne Salmonella caused 78 million illnesses and almost 60,000 deaths.

JEMRA has previously evaluated Salmonella in broiler chickens and chicken meat. For Campylobacter, it has conducted risk assessments in broiler chickens and evaluated intervention measures used in the production of chicken meat.

Selection of participants will begin on April 30, 2023, and continue until enough suitable candidates are identified. To apply please follow this link.

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