Airborne Campylobacter in a Poultry Processing Plant

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Virginia Tech

Campylobacter is a foodborne pathogen commonly found in live poultry and raw poultry products. Identifying areas of contamination or modes of transmission during commercial processing can lead to strategies to reduce the level of Campylobacter on finished products. Monitoring levels of airborne Campylobacter may be useful for identifying the presence or relative concentration of the pathogen in a processing plant environment. In this study, air sampling was used to detect and quantify Campylobacter in a commercial chicken processing plant by location within the plant and collection time during the day. Air was sampled from evisceration and post-chill areas in a poultry processing plant on four days and at 4 hour intervals onto Campy-Cefex agar plates or gelatin filters that were subsequently transferred to Campy-Cefex agar plates. Additionally, pre-evisceration and post-chill carcass rinses were analyzed quantitatively for Campylobacter. The mean level of airborne Campylobacter was 5 CFU/1000L of air sampled (10% samples positive) in comparison with 413 CFU/mL from carcass rinses (70% samples positive). Higher concentrations were found in carcass rinse samples from pre-evisceration. Airborne Campylobacter was detected from the evisceration area more frequently than from the post-chill carcass area of the plant (P < 0.05). This study shows that airborne Campylobacter can be quantified with a selective agar and with gelatin filter collection. Further research is needed to prove the utility of airborne detection of Campylobacter for estimating the relative contamination level of live poultry flocks and the processing plant environment and the potential for cross-contamination.

Campylobacter, air sampling, carcass rinse, poultry, gelatin filter, Campy-Cefex