Research – Campylobacter Contamination of UK-Produced Halal Chicken at Retail

Journal of Food Protection

CDC Campy

Campylobacter is the leading cause of human bacterial diarrhoeal disease worldwide, with poultry meat products accounting for the majority of human cases. Recent surveys by the Food Standards Agency estimate the Campylobacter prevalence in fresh UK retail chicken to be 41.2%. However, such surveys have not distinguished between broiler chickens produced for different consumer demographics, such as the Halal market. Campylobacter colonisation of broilers is difficult to prevent, especially during routine partial depopulation of flocks. Broilers produced for the Halal market may undergo multiple depopulation events, which may increase the risk of colonisation and subsequent Campylobacter contamination of chicken meat. This project aimed to determine the prevalence and levels of Campylobacter contamination of chicken meat produced for the UK Halal market. Campylobacter was identified and enumerated from the neck skin and outer packaging of 405 Halal chickens. Following culture, isolates were assigned to species via PCR and disc diffusion antimicrobial susceptibility tests determined. Logistic regression analysis assessed risk factors for Campylobacter isolation, the level of Campylobacter contamination among positive carcasses and antimicrobial resistance outcomes. Campylobacter spp. were confirmed in 65.4% of neck skin samples and 17.1% of packaging samples. 13.8% of neck skin samples had the highest level of contamination (>1000 cfu/g). Large birds had a significantly higher number of samples with >1000 cfu/g (p<0.001) and as chicken carcass weight increased, birds were more likely to be Campylobacter-positive (p<0.05). A high prevalence of resistance was seen to ciprofloxacin (42.0%) and 38.5% of samples contained at least one multi-drug resistant Campylobacter isolate. This study demonstrates that Halal chicken has a higher Campylobacter prevalence than non-Halal chicken. Interventions should be introduced to reduce this increased public health risk to consumers.

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