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With Hot Air Treatment, Bacteria Fly the Coop

11 January 2013

USDA ARS
USDA

Poultry processors could use a forced hot-air treatment to dry cages (also known as crates) between transporting flocks, lessening the number of Campylobacter on cage flooring and thereby decreasing the potential for cross-contamination during live haul, according to Rosalie Marion Bliss of the USDA Agricultural Research Service in its magazine, 'Agricultural Research'.

While being transported in hauling coops on trucks, poultry that have been colonised with bacteria such as Campylobacter can contaminate, through faecal shedding, pathogen-free poultry. Those pathogens can also be passed on to the next group of birds during the next trip, and so forth, unless the cycle is broken.

That is where Agricultural Research Service microbiologists, Mark Berrang and Richard Meinersmann and colleague, Charles Hofacre, at the University of Georgia in Athens come in. The team has reported a treatment that reduces poultry cross-contamination from transport-cage flooring.

Campylobacter are foodborne pathogens that can be present in raw or undercooked poultry. Since the bacteria are commonly found in the digestive tracts of poultry, they are readily deposited, through faecal shedding, onto coops and trucks when contaminated animals are transported to processing plants.

Berrang and Meinersmann are in ARS's Bacterial Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance Research Unit in Athens.

Earlier work has shown that drying soiled or washed cages for 24 to 48 hours could lower or eliminate detectable Campylobacter on cage flooring. But extended drying times are impractical, so the researchers tested the use of hot flowing air to speed the process.

To determine whether the effect was due to heat alone or flowing air alone, hot flowing air was compared with unheated flowing air and static hot air as well as with a control. The numbers of Campylobacter, Escherichia coli and coliforms were measured on small squares of washed or unwashed transport cage flooring that had been soiled with faeces after drying treatments.

When applied after a water-spray wash treatment, flowing hot air for 15 minutes lowered the numbers of Campylobacter to an undetectable level. The authors reported that the treatment could provide significant savings in drying time if used by industry, suggesting a potential commercial application.

Static heat at similar temperatures was not nearly as effective, and unheated flowing air was moderately effective, but less so than hot flowing air.

The authors concluded that processors may be able to use a forced-hot-air treatment to dry cages between transporting flocks, lessening the number of Campylobacter on cage flooring, thereby decreasing the potential for cross-contamination during live haul.

More findings are reported in the Journal of Applied Poultry Research, December 2011 [click here].

January 2013

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