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An Integrated System Approach to Reduce Salmonella in Organic and All Natural Poultry


This proposal addresses the priority of meeting food safety concerns resulting from the exploding consumer demand for natural and organic poultry. The overall goal of this project is to systematically fill gaps in our current knowledge on controlling microbial pathogens in natural and organic poultry and develop methods to reduce pathogens. This project encompasses small and large scale operations. Our specific objectives include: <OL> <LI> conducting preharvest surveillance and epidemiology; <LI> developing preharvest intervention strategies; <LI> developing postharvest intervention strategies; and<LI> conducting outreach activities (workshops and HACCP programs) for natural and organic poultry producers and processors. </OL> Completion of this project is expected to further USDAs goals of reducing Salmonella contamination of raw poultry by developing an integrated approach for natural and organic poultry in both the preharvest and postharvest areas, to fill in critical gaps in determining Salmonella contamination and to develop effective measures for minimizing contamination.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Illness from Salmonella contaminated poultry remains a huge problem. Despite the best efforts of the poultry industry, the levels of Salmonella contamination continue to be troubling as raw chicken and chicken products were recently linked to 214 outbreaks of foodborne illness and of these, 195 were due to Salmonella. Salmonella contaminated raw poultry is a vexing problem for regulators, USDA and FSIS, as well as consumers. This problem could grow worse with the rapid rise in consumer demand for all-natural and organic poultry. One of the "drivers" for consumers to purchase organic foods is personal or close family experience with a debilitating medical condition coupled with the belief that organic is safer than conventional. However, reports comparing conventional to organic poultry have demonstrated that organic poultry may have a higher rate of Salmonella contamination. Immediate action is required to protect these immunocompromised Consumers of organic poultry. Salmonella contaminated organic and natural poultry products impacts not only this segment of the population but will, as markets grow, impact an increasing number of consumers and consequently a wider spectrum of the poultry industry. Our overall goal of this project is to fill knowledge gaps about how frequent and where Salmonella is most likely to come from in organic and natural poultry large and small operations. Our specific objectives include: 1) examine potential sources of Salmonella in organic and natural poultry grow out operations; 2) devise control measures for both growers and processors 3) conduct workshops and good management programs for natural and organic poultry producers and processors. Completing this project will not only help identify critical gaps in determining where Salmonella contamination is occurring but help develop cost effective measures to minimize contamination natural and organic poultry production. <P> APPROACH: Our approach for systematic control of Salmonella in organic and natural poultry flocks is based on the fact that a multitude of factors can introduce Salmonella into the flock even if the chicks arrived at the production facility Salmonella-free. The more common sources of Salmonella contamination on the farm include water, food, litter, pests, and cross-contamination of houses by personnel activity. Contamination can further increase during transport to the processing plant and during slaughter. In the first phase of this project we plan to collect on-farm samples for baseline Salmonella serovars present on organic and all-natural poultry farm production facilities that represent current practices to determine where Salmonella is introduced and the effect that current and traditional production and environmental factors may have. A second phase involves comparing conventional interventions applied to natural and organic poultry production that will target reduction of Salmonella outgrowth during preharvest. Evaluation of these interventions on bird performance and Salmonella serovars before and after intervention will be conducted. To maximize Salmonella reduction at processing plants, a third phase will involve comparing both approved and novel antimicrobials in pre and post chiller applications for water and air chilling interventions and on finished raw poultry. Laboratory findings will be confirmed in a BS level II poultry pilot plant. Outreach materials, workshops and HACCP programs will be developed for the fourth phase in a stepwise fashion with risk assessment to determine key Salmonella control points. These will leverage our established information delivery systems using Good Agriculture Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices and HACCP roundtable discussions and poultry workshops. These programs will focus on organic and natural production and processing systems. Systematic sampling protocols will fill in knowledge gaps, so growers and processors can focus their limited resources on techniques on key control points shown to reduce human pathogenic Salmonella serovars. This research in conjunction with cost/benefit analysis will help determine if currently available interventions at the preharvest and postharvest levels will help reduce Salmonella incidence in organic/natural poultry production. Based on the findings in this project, additional/different Interventions can be recommended.

Ricke, Steven
University of Arkansas
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