Recent pathogen-food pairings attribute Campylobacter contaminated poultry to more illnesses than any other bacteria-food combination, and contaminated poultry alone has the greatest public health impact among all foods (Batz et al., 2011). To combat this issue, the United States Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) implemented stringent Campylobacter performance standards (USDA, 2009). The compliance to such standards is projected to result in the reduction of more than 5,000 Campylobacter infections in the United States annually (USDA, 2011). As a zoonotic pathogen, Campylobacter is a common poultry commensal and a well-known cause of human gastroenteritis worldwide. Estimates for the U.S itself account for in excess of 800,000 episodes of foodborne illnesses annually (Scallan et al., 2011).
Campylobacter commensally colonize the avian intestinal tract and proliferate at temperatures around 37 to 42°C. Campylobacter grows under microaerophilic conditions (5%N2, 10%O2, 85% N2); therefore, the intestinal tract of commercial broilers is a favorable environment for its growth. Similar to other bacterial pathogens, Campylobacter can enter into a Viable But Non Culturable (VBNC) state in which the bacteria will not exhibit growth on traditional laboratory media although the pathogen can return to a culturable state and retain pathogenicity. In the US, Campylobacter has a considerable impact on public health each year. Historically, the United States Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) focused on regulating the prevalence of Salmonella spp. on raw poultry products. Most recently, the industry has maintained steady control of Salmonella spp. and attention has shifted towards Campylobacter spp. Hence, performance standards have been implemented concerning Campylobacter on raw poultry, wherein a tolerance limit of 10.4% prevalence in young chickens has been set. The U.S. poultry industry is a highly competitive and efficiency driven agri-sector, where the health and growth efficiency of broilers during live production, processing, and consistency in quality during manufacture are given high priority. However, the industry is consistently challenged by factors such as changing
economic conditions, awareness and misconceptions regarding foodborne illnesses, and changes in meat consumption patterns.
The evolution of the regulatory landscape necessitates the use of antimicrobials in poultry processing. More importantly, the application of novel antimicrobials at various points throughout poultry processing can be useful to aid in meeting regulatory requirements. In an attempt to reduce and eliminate Campylobacter, researchers have used a variety of antimicrobial treatments and application methods, especially during the immersion chilling process. The primary reasons for using antimicrobial treatments during immersion chilling is to extend contact time, the overall washing effect on carcasses, and a further scrubbing effect to reduce attached bacteria. Chemical treatments such as Sodium Hypochlorite (Chlorine; SH), Peroxyacetic Acid (Peracetic Acid; PAA), Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC), and TriSodium Phosphate (TSP) have shown to be effective in reducing Campylobacter on raw poultry. Each of these treatments has advantages and disadvantages for processors, but ultimately the decision amounts to finding a safe, cost-effective, and reliable product that is a proven food safety solution.
Current research shows that completely eliminating C. jejuni is a challenging task and maintaining a multi-hurdle approach in commercial poultry processing facilities will prove to be the most effective method to achieve performance standards set forth by the USDA-FSIS for this pathogen.
Batz, M. B., S. J. Hoffman, and G. J. Morris. 2011. Ranking the risks: the 10 pathogenfood combinations with the greatest burden on public health. Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville.
Scallan E., R. M. Hoekstra, F. J. Angulo, R. V. Tauxe, M. A. Widdowson, S. L. Roy, J. L. Jones and P. M. Griffin. 2011. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States-major pathogens. Emerg. Infect. Dis.17:7-15.
USDA. 2009. New performance standards for Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments: response to comments and announcement of implementation schedule. Food Safety Inspection Service, USDA. Washington, D. C. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FRPubs/2009-0029.pdf
USDA. 2011a. Potential public health impact of Salmonella and Campylobacter performance guidance for young chickens and turkeys. Food Safety Inspection Service, USDA. Washington, D. C. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Potential_Public_Health_Impact_Sal_Campy_Performance_Guidance_Broilers_Turkeys_201 1.pdf