Periódicos Brasileiros em Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

Microbiological quality of poultry meat: a review

Mead, GC

Poultry meat can be contaminated with a variety of microorganisms, including those capable of spoiling the product during chill storage, and certain foodborne pathogens. Human illness may follow from handling of raw meat, undercooking or mishandling of the cooked product. While Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. remain the organisms of greatest global concern in this respect, others present include the more recently reported Arcobacter and Helicobacter spp. and, occasionally, verotoxigenic Escherichia coli. Also considered here is the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance among poultry-associated pathogens. Because of the need for a systematic and universally applicable approach to food safety control, the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) concept is increasingly being introduced into the Poultry Industry, and Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) is being applied to microbial hazards. Among a number of completed and on-going studies on QRA are those undertaken by FAO/WHO on Salmonella and Campylobacter in broilers. In the case of Campylobacter, however, any QRA must assume at present that all strains have the same pathogenic potential for humans and comparable survival capabilities, even though this is unlikely to be the case. Implementation of the HACCP system in poultry processing plants addresses zoonotic agents that are not detectable by conventional meat inspection procedures and can help to control contamination of carcasses with spoilage organisms. The system brings obvious benefits in optimising plant hygiene, ensuring compliance with legislation and providing evidence of 'due diligence' on the part of the processor. It is now being applied globally in two different situations: in one, such as that occurring in the USA, carcass contamination is clearly reduced as carcasses pass through the process and are finally chilled in super-chlorinated water. There is also the option to use a chemical-rinse treatment for further reduction of microbial contamination. In the second scenario, processors in the EU are not allowed to super-chlorinate process water, and water chilling, which has an important washing effect, is confined to carcasses intended for freezing. Also, chemical decontamination is prohibited until 2006 at the earliest. Therefore, for fresh carcasses that are air chilled, there is presently no marked reduction in carcass contamination and no Critical Control Point at which a significant reduction in pathogen contamination can be guaranteed. Overall, effective control of the organisms is best realised through a farm-to-fork approach at all stages of the supply chain.

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