March 24, 2018

Flash Drying Poultry Cages Reduces Campylobacter Levels

Campylobacter is a bacteria that is commonly found in the intestines of poultry and shed  in their feces. During slaughter, these bacteria sometimes make their way onto cuts of meat, posing a health threat to consumers.

Sometimes these bacteria are spread from infected birds to healthy ones during transport. For example, a healthy bird may be placed in a poultry cage whose previous occupant was infected, or the healthy bird’s poultry cage may be placed beneath an infected bird’s cage on a truck. Despite the risk to consumers, there hasn’t been much progress in reducing the presence of the pathogen in poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A few years ago, researchers discovered that drying the cages for 24-48 hours after washing them, cut down and even eliminated Campylobacter levels in poultry cages. But these drying times were found to be overly long and impractical by the industry. So  microbiologists Mark Berrang and Richard Meinersmann at the US Department of Agriculture’s  Agricultural Research Service and their colleague Charles Hofacre at the University of Georgia in Athens researched a shorter drying time with a blast of hot air.

They found that flowing hot air for 15 minutes on cages that had been spray washed with water “lowered the numbers of Campylobacter to an undetectable level,” according to a report of their study published in the January 2013 edition of Agricultural Research, a USDA publication. No word  yet on how the poultry industry views the breakthrough.

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