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Monitoring Programme for Campylobacter in Broiler Flocks and Broiler Carcasses in the UK

Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)
Start date
End date

This campylobacter monitoring programme aims to measure the level of campylobacter contamination in broiler chickens so that any significant change in campylobacter load over time can be detected in response to the implementation of specific intervention practices at different points along the production chain.

The availability of a validated rapid speciation test for monitoring purposes would make future campylobacter testing work more cost-effective while maintaining or increasing the quality of the test result. Therefore, in the first part of the monitoring programme this study will undertake both biochemical and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in parallel for campylobacter speciation This will contribute to the standardisation, optimisation and validation of these techniques, allowing a significant reduction in cost of the tests for monitoring purposes if any of these tests are adopted in future.

An industry voluntary monitoring programme currently uses samples that are taken for salmonella testing, comprising three neck skin samples per slaughter batch, five batches on one day with a frequency of once a week or less. It is not known how this sampling strategy compares with the sampling methodology used in the EU survey conducted in 2008, where sampling and testing of one neck and attached breast skin sample per slaughter batch was required. The project will also assess the performance of these two sampling strategies and determine how they compare for the enumeration of campylobacter in broiler batches.

To improve the understanding of management practices within the UK broiler industry and to gain a better knowledge of their impact on the epidemiology of campylobacter in broiler flocks, data on production practices will be collected. Information on thinning and depopulation practices, flock size, general bio-security and other management practices will be collected using a questionnaire aimed at agriculture and farm managers of the participating companies. These data will be combined with the microbiological data generated by the monitoring programme and will be analysed independently.

This monitoring programme, alongside the industry voluntary programme, will provide baseline data to feed into risk assessment models and will be used to measure on-going progress on the effectiveness of the FSA risk management programme towards achieving the reduction target.

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Background: The FSA, in collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the British Poultry Council, the National Farmers Union and the British Retail Consortium, has agreed a voluntary target for the reduction in the levels of campylobacter in UK produced raw chicken to be achieved in a phased approach by April 2015.

This target will be measured as a reduction from a baseline level of 27% of highly contaminated batches in 2008 to 19% by 2013 and to 10% by 2015. Industry has put in place an on-going voluntary monitoring programme and this project will undertake an independent monitoring programme that will be used by the FSA to assess on-going progress towards achievement of the target.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project source
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Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Meat, Poultry, Game