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Farm-to-Fork Food Safety Research for Specialty Poultry Producers


<li>Determine the prevalence of microbial pathogens from poultry species characterized as high, medium, or low risk for contamination by Campylobacter spp. and Salmonellae spp. on the farm, after transport and at processing. </li>
<li> Utilize molecular typing to dtermine the probable origin of Campylobacter isolates that contaminate the carcasses of specialty poultry products sold as food.</li>
<li> Provide small and medium-sized specialty market producers and processors information that wil imporve food safety of their products and ensure the marketability exportability and profitability of their agricultural enterprises. </li></ol>

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We lack science-based information necessary to address microbial contamination and food safety issues of specialty poultry products. Addressing food safety concerns will enhance the successful marketing of specialty poultry products and the economic viability of small and medium sized farms. </P>
Approach Objective 1. <br>We will enlist participation from producers of squab (young pigeon), quail, chickens and ducks for our study. Fecal samples will be collected on target farms by cloacal swab and drag swab for bacterial culture of salmonellae and campylobacter. We will survey transport and shipping procedures and repeat fecal samples from crates and cloacal swabs. We will follow the flock through processing, obtaining samples for microbial culture from equipment and carcasses. </P>
Analysis of this data will allow the identification of critical control points specific for each production system. </P>
Approach, Objective 2.<br> We will utilize molecular typing of the DNA of Campylobacter isolated from farm, transport, processing and the final product to help us identify the primary sources of campylobacter on the final products and where and when the contamination of carcasses is occurring.</p>
Approach, Objective 3.<br> We will disseminate information gained from this research to stakeholders by seminar, personal visitation, fact sheets, web page distribution and publication. </P>
The prevalence of Campylobacter and Salmonella spp. was determined throughout the continuum from farm to finished product in 3 flocks from each of 6 types of California niche market poultry. The niche-market commodities included: squab (young pigeon), poussin (28 day-old broiler chicken), duck, quail, guinea fowl and free-range chicken. </p>
Flocks were sampled on the farm immediately prior to transport to the processing plant, upon arrival at the plant, and sequentially throughout processing. Squab, poussin and quail were processed at Plant A; duck and guinea fowl and Plant B and free-range chicken at Plant C.</p>
Samples were collected for bacterial culture at 3 processing stations from each flock: picker, eviseration, and pre-package. Additional processing sample sites varied by species of bird. Processing equipment was also swabbed and cultured for Salmonella and Campylobacter. </p>
The highest on-farm prevalence of Campylobacter was observed in the three poussin flocks (80%, 97%, and 80%) while the lowest was in squab (10%, 0, 0). The highest on-farm prevalences of Salmonella were found in poussin and free-range chickens. Post-transport prevalence was not substantially higher than on-farm, except in free-range flocks, where a higher prevalence of positive chickens was found after a 6 to 8 h holding period before processing. No spikes in bacterial prevalence that could be considered critical control points were consistently observed for any commodity or at any of the three processing plants. </p>
A total of 773 isolates were genotyped yielding a total of 74 distinct flaA profiles for the six commodities. Genetic diversity of C. jejuni at the farm was greatest for ducks with up to 12 distinct flaA types in 2 flocks (the second flock was negative for C. jejuni) and least for squab with only 2 types on 2 farms (the third flock was negative for C. jejuni). </p>
Cross contamination of carcasses was suggested by: <ol>
<li> Overlap of flaA profiles between species processed at the same processing plant, and </li>
<li> Acquisition of new flaA types as flocks proceeded through processing (from the picker to the pre-packaging station). </li></ol></p>
A further study to investigate the factors underlying the wide variance in positive prevalence between poultry species was conducted. The colonization potential of C. jejuni derived from low prevalence species (squab and duck) was tested in broiler chickens to determine if host specificity of the isolates affected their ability to colonize chickens. No differences in colonizing rate or magnitude were observed, indicating that all of the C. jejuni strains tested readily colonized the chicken host. </p>
The goal of this study was to extend the farm to fork concepts of food safety to the producers and processors of specialty poultry products on small to medium sized farms.</p>
We set out to identify the source and incidence of food borne microbial pathogens from the farm, during transport, and at the processing plant. No spikes in bacterial prevalence were consistently observed for any individual species or plant. Cross contamination was observed by overlap in flaA profiles of C. jejuni. </p>
However, working with the various producers and processing personnel to explain the goals of our studies, and presenting microbial culture results to our collaborators, provided an avenue for education and extension of food safety issues and the contribution of that on farm prevalence and processing to safe products. Thus, the goals of our study were satisfied.

Jeffrey, Johnson
University of California - Davis
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