Little information has been published on the microbiological aspects of U.S. commercial duck processing. The objective of this study was to measure prevalence and/or levels of bacteria in duck samples representing the live bird and partially or fully processed oven-ready duck meat. At 12 monthly sampling times, samples were collected at six sites along the processing line in a commercial duck slaughter plant. Crop and cecum samples were collected at the point of evisceration. Whole carcass rinse samples were collected before and after carcass immersion chilling plus application of an antimicrobial spray. Leg quarters were collected from the cut-up line before and after application of an antimicrobial dip treatment. All samples (five from each site per monthly replication) were directly plated and/or enriched for Salmonella and Campylobacter. For the last 10 replications, carcass and leg quarter rinse samples were also evaluated for enumeration of total aerobic bacteria, Escherichia coli, and coliforms. Most cecum, crop, and prechill carcass rinse samples were positive for Campylobacter (80, 72, and 67%, respectively). Carcass chilling and chlorinated spray significantly lowered Campylobacter prevalence (P < 0.01), and even fewer leg quarters were positive for Campylobacter (P < 0.01). Passage through a chlorinated dip did not further reduce Campylobacter prevalence on leg quarters. Salmonella was infrequently found in any of the samples examined (≤10%). Total aerobic bacteria, coliforms, and E. coli levels were reduced (P < 0.01) on whole carcasses by chilling but were not different after cut-up or leg quarter dip treatment. Overall, current commercial duck processing techniques as applied in the tested plant were effective for reducing the prevalence and levels of Campylobacter on duck meat products.

  • Campylobacter and Salmonella can be associated with live ducks for commercial slaughter.

  • Antimicrobial treatment reduced the prevalence of Campylobacter in duck samples.

  • Antimicrobial treatment reduced levels of aerobic bacteria, coliforms, and E. coli in duck samples.

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