No consensus on future success of Salmonella control for poultry industry
Opinions about the poultry industry’s future success in controlling Salmonella differ widely, judging by comments from panelists at a food-safety roundtable.
Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, senior vice president, technical services and innovation, Perdue Farms, said he doesn’t think the industry will get rid of Salmonella but does believe there will be a low prevalence of the pathogen.
“This idea [that] all positives are the same needs to be rethought. Low levels are generally lower risk, and some recognition of that would be a step forward for public health,” he said.
Salmonella-control solutions need to be built around the US industry, Stewart-Brown continued. “I don’t think we’re going to cement floors in all of our chicken houses. I don’t think we’re going to fumigate in between each flock.
“Our solutions in the US industry will require some innovation around our current business set up — dirt floors, 2- to 3-week layouts, mostly multistage hatcheries [and] a lot of pressure on antibiotic use, to name a few things that will not likely change much in the next 5 years.”
Serotype changes, which he said are “humbling,” are likely, but thankfully many of the interventions the industry has are effective against multiple serotypes.
“We need a big change regarding comminuted products. If there is any type of product that needs some recognition, it’s these and that load is important,” he said at the roundtable “Coming Together for Food Safety.”
Loss of PAA?
One of the biggest concerns is the potential loss of peracetic acid (PAA), several panelists indicated.
“I think PAA will eventually be banned,” Robert O’Connor, DVM, senior vice president, technical services, Foster Farms said. “I think we are totally, completely reliant on that one compound in the plant, and we’re going to be really hurting when it does get banned.”
Joshua Whitley, complex manager, Tyson Foods, also said “we could see PAA go away.” Although there may be alternative chemicals, he said he hopes Salmonella control will ultimately be managed with best management practices on the live side and in the plant.
Erin Johnson, director of food safety, George’s Poultry, said: “We’re going to have to think out of the box on PAA, because the very thing that is helping us right now is also destroying our plants as far as floors and equipment.”
Although irradiation is anathema to most of the people in the industry, it’s a “fantastic innovation” and a very effective, absolute, end-of processing intervention, O’Connor said.
“I know R&D will tell you there’s a slight off odor and maybe some discoloration, but put it this way: I ate it and I didn’t have a problem,” he said.
“Maybe it has to be tweaked so it doesn’t discolor chicken. Maybe it has to be remodeled so the cost is less. But I just think how great it would be if we could get rid of an inherent pathogen with one step.
“Consumers could handle [poultry] whichever way they wanted, and we wouldn’t have to put so much money, time, effort and energy into interventions. So that’s my vision,” he said.
Carl Heeder, DVM, senior director, live operations, Mountaire Farms, thinks the technology and sampling process for the epidemiology of outbreaks is going to continue to ratchet down on the industry and the goal line will keep shifting.
“I think serotypes will continue to be the most important piece,” he said. “I think we’ll get much better at managing Salmonella within the system and probably have a lower prevalence.
“But I also think we will have to keep chasing serotypes responsible for the next major outbreak and that the government…will continue wanting involvement in live production.”
Juan Devillena, director of quality assurance and food safety, Wayne Farms, had the most optimistic opinion about the poultry industry and Salmonella control.
“I think we’ll win this battle. We have proven it time after time,” he said. “When I started in this industry, the biggest bug was Escherichia coli, and now nobody talks about it anymore.”
Commitment to Salmonella control needs to come from the top down, but the key player is really the complex manager, he added. “If the complex manager makes it clear to other folks that food safety is important, it becomes important for everybody in that plant.”
More pressure on industry
O’Connor said that whole-genome sequencing, which is a favorite technology of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will attribute more outbreaks of Salmonella to the poultry industry “because that’s what Salmonella genome sequencing does.”
“If you believe that Salmonella as a bacteria is inherent in bird and reptile species, which it is, then you really should see salmonellosis in humans as a zoonotic disease…Where does the consumer get Salmonella from? From the chicken. Instead of putting the emphasis on cooking temperatures, consumers need to be educated about how to handle raw chicken,” he said.
Douglas Fulnechek, DVM, senior public health veterinarian, Zoetis, agreed that whole-genome sequencing is going to put pressure on the industry because it’s a very specific and sharp tool that will identify the sources of Salmonella outbreaks and the sources of the infection in the human population.
“That’s pressure. And in response, I think the industry’s going to be employing more analysis,” he said.
“Science and technology give us the information we need to make sound decisions about things that are contributing to your success and things that are not.”
John Smith, DVM, president, Alectryon LLC, formerly with Fieldale Farms, pointed out that ”If we do lick Salmonella, I’m sure it’ll be replaced by something; obviously Campylobacter is the big one in the room at the moment.
“So, the bottom line is that I think in 5 years we’ll still be far from where we need to be, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be further down that road,” he said.
Read the rest of this article and download our “Coming Together for Food Safety” special report.
Posted on October 5, 2022