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Int J Food Microbiol. 2002 Jun 5;76(1-2):151-64.

Prevalence and numbers of Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. on raw, whole chickens in relation to sampling methods.

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Food Microbiology Rsearch Unit, Public Health Laboratory, Heavitree, Exeter, UK.


Salmonella and Campylobacter continue to be major foodborne pathogens and raw poultry is considered to be an important source of these bacteria. In this study, the prevalence and numbers of Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. in relation to isolation/sampling methods were determined in 241 whole raw chickens purchased from retail outlets in England during the winters of 1998/1999 (101 chickens) and 1999/2000 (140 chickens). The packaging of the 140 chickens was also examined for the presence of the above pathogens. The prevalence and numbers of enterococci were examined in 21 of the 101 chickens. In total, Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. were present in 25% and 83% of the chickens, respectively. Salmonella were isolated from a sample representing both the inside and outside of the packaging in 19% of the chickens, while the corresponding figure for Campylobacter spp. was 56%. Both of these pathogens were isolated from the outside of the packaging in 6% of the chickens. Salmonella was more frequently isolated from samples containing chicken skin in comparison with those containing carcass-rinse fluid only. Two chickens (0.8%) were positive for Salmonella by direct enumeration methods with contamination levels of log10 3.8 and 4.5 colony forming units (cfu) per carcass, respectively. The most prevalent serotypes were S. Hadar, S. Enteritidis and S. Indiana and two different serotypes were identified in 5/20 salmonella-positive chickens. Resistance to at least one antibiotic was found in 70% of the strains, 46% were multiresistant (resistant to > or = four drugs) and 52% showed a lowered susceptibility to ciprofloxacin. The likelihood of isolating Campylobacter spp. from neck-skin, carcass-rinse or carcass-rinse plus whole skin samples was similar, Campylobacter spp. were found in higher levels in carcass-rinse or carcass-rinse plus whole skin samples than in neck-skin. The log10 cfu of Campylobacter spp. were 2.70-4.99 in 18% of the chickens and 5.00-6.99 in 20%. Campylobacter isolates (425) comprised Campylobacter jejuni (98%) and C. coli (2%) and 98 different sero/phagetypes of these two species were identified. Resistance to at least one antibiotic was found in 73% of the strains and 13% were multiresistant. Thirteen percent of the strains showed lowered susceptibility to ciprofloxacin, while 4.9% were resistant to erythromycin. Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), able to grow on agar containing 15 mg l(-1) vancomycin (VRE15), were present in 19 chickens. The log10 cfu of VRE15 was 2.90-3.99 in 10 chickens and between 4.00 and 4.99 in two chickens. The data presented here contribute to risk assessment and highlight the need to continue to emphasise the safe handling of raw retail poultry.

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