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US poultry industry shifting focus to Campylobacter, Salmonella Infantis

In light of new USDA standards, the US poultry industry needs to step up its game, said one expert.

21 September 2019, at 6:36pm

The US poultry industry needs to revisit Campylobacter-control strategies in preparation for new performance standards coming from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Ashley Peterson, PhD, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, National Chicken Council (NCC), told Poultry Health Today.

She explained that a few years ago, when FSIS switched to using neutralised buffered peptone water (nBPW) for processing plant detection of pathogens, the numbers for Campylobacter started plummeting. Campylobacter wasn’t surviving the nBPW.

That prompted FSIS to change to a more sensitive enrichment testing method, which led to more Campylobacter found in chicken rinsates. Consequently, FSIS has new proposed performance standards for Campylobacter in ground chicken, which it released in August 2019.

Will follow suit

FSIS is expected to follow suit in late 2019/early 2020 with new proposed Campylobacter performance standards for chicken parts and whole carcasses, Peterson said.

“They collected a year’s worth of data and are analysing that data, and then, again, they will propose a performance standard for both whole birds and parts. The industry will have a roughly 60-day comment period to provide feedback to the agency; then we’ll have an implementation period like we usually do, and then it’s game on.”

NCC will review proposed FSIS performance standards and make sure a robust data set has been used.

“Of course, having time is always important, because we’re going to have a fundamental change, I think, from focusing mostly on Salmonella to now trying to address [both Salmonella and Campylobacter] which are very, very different. So we will be asking for additional time to allow the industry to implement some of those controls.”

‘Need an army’

While Salmonella and Campylobacter are both bacterial pathogens, control measures differ in both live production and at the processing plant, Peterson continued. These distinctions are noteworthy, she added, because in the past an FSIS compliance guide lumped Salmonella and Campylobacter together. Since then, FSIS has recognised “they’re very different bacteria and they act very differently.”

Live production and processing will need to work cooperatively and take an integrated approach to reduce the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter. “Hopefully they can work together to try to find some solutions because, at the end of the day, it takes an army and we’re going to need an army to get Campylobacter under control.”

For live production, Peterson said it would be helpful to have an effective, dependable vaccine to minimise the amount of Campylobacter going into the processing plant. In the meantime, processing plants have several USDA-approved antimicrobials, but there’s room to fine-tune how they’re used for maximum effectiveness.

Salmonella Infantis

While discussing foodborne pathogens, Peterson also expressed concerns about Salmonella Infantis, a multidrug resistant pathogen that caused a Salmonella outbreak that began in January 2018 and lasted about a year. The pathogen was found in 76 US processing plants, and the genome sequence was the same, which is unusual.

With Salmonella, serotypes tend to have different genome sequences; the source can often be pinpointed to a specific location, which sometimes results in a recall. Where S. Infantis came from remains a mystery, she said.

NCC conducted a survey that included a number of respondents raising chickens without antibiotics, but there was no clear link between that type of production and S. Infantis.

The survey results did indicate that vaccine pressure may play a role. All breeders that were part of the survey had been vaccinated against Salmonella, and most had received both commercial and autogenous vaccines, she said.

Usually only two or three Salmonella serotypes are used in a vaccine. “So, depending on what serotypes you’re picking to put in your vaccine, that may put pressure on other serotypes, good or bad, or open up the door for another serotype to take its place,” she said.