As with other foodborne pathogen reduction strategies, the primary focus for controlling Campylobacter contamination in broiler chicken meat is on sanitation in the processing and retailing sectors. While there is large variation in published data from surveys and specific cases, Campylobacter prevalence of more than 70 percent is frequently reported for the market in Europe.
Pre-harvest recommendations to reduce contamination of poultry meat remain directed basically towards biosecurity. The reason is simple: The poultry industry does not yet have an effective and widely recognized solution to reduce Campylobacter in live birds. Even with such a solution, there is the challenge of applying it successfully in different countries and production systems.
Fortunately, a large, diverse group of experts are actively seeking a comprehensive solution to reduce the risk of Campylobacter in broiler meat by fighting this persistent pathogen in the flocks from day 1. This consortium, working under the umbrella of the Campybro Project, brings together the expertise of 10 research institutions, industry associations, and companies in four European countries. This independent, collaborative project is sponsored under a grant from the European Union for research, technological development, and demonstration.
During 2015, results from several initial trials within the Campybro Project were presented at various scientific forums in Europe (Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Spain) and elsewhere (New Zealand, South Africa, and the U.S.). The first two full peer-reviewed articles about the use of available products to fight Campylobacter in live birds in Europe were published recently in the journal Poultry Science (Part A and Part B).
Variety of Products Tested
Products for inclusion in broiler feed tested in this first phase of the Campybro Project—a total of 24 alone, along with a number of combinations—are identified by their commercial or trade names and generic characterization. Most of the products are commercially available now, although some are still under development. The products include organic acids, fatty acids, monoglycerides, plant extracts, probiotics, essential oils, flavoring compounds, and a unique, proprietary fermentation product characterized by the journal article authors as “prebiotic-like” and tested only as a stand-alone product.
It is important to note this fermentation product is listed in the European Union’s Catalog of Feed Materials (category 12.1.5) and is not a “feed additive” according to EU regulations.
A first battery of 12 products (Part A) was evaluated at the facilities of the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety in Ploufragan, France, in an experiment with 688 one-day-old Ross PM3 male and female broiler chicks. Each product was tested once and three trials were conducted to cover all 12 products, always against a positive control. The fermentation product was included at 1.25 kilogram/metric ton of feed. Chickens (45 to 40 birds per group) were randomly assigned to the treatments from day 1 and all birds were individually inoculated with Campylobacter jejuni (100 microliter oral suspension) on day 11. Campylobacter cecal counts were performed in subsamples of birds at 2, 5, and 6 weeks of age (3, 24, and 31 days post-challenge).
Although 10 of the 12 products showed reductions in Campylobacter counts at some point during the trials, half of the products showed effects only up to day 14. However, at the end of the study on day 42 (see Figure 1), the fermentation product showed the highest mean reduction in Campylobacter counts—the only product with over 3 log reduction. Also, the fermentation product’s reduction of Campylobacter was the most significantly different from the averaged control groups of the three trials at 42 days (P < 0.001).