ABSTRACT

Campylobacter is the leading cause of human bacterial diarrheal disease worldwide, and poultry meat products account for the majority of human cases. Based on recent surveys, the Food Standards Agency has estimated the Campylobacter prevalence in fresh retail chicken in the United Kingdom to be 41.2%. However, such surveys have not distinguished between broiler chickens produced for different consumer demographic groups, such as the Halal market. Campylobacter colonization of broilers is difficult to prevent, especially during routine partial depopulation of flocks. Broilers produced for the Halal market may undergo multiple depopulation events, which may increase the risk of Campylobacter colonization and subsequent contamination of chicken meat. This study was conducted to determine the prevalence and levels of Campylobacter contamination in chicken meat produced for the Halal market in the United Kingdom. Campylobacter was identified and enumerated from the neck skin and outer packaging of 405 Halal chickens. Culture isolates were assigned to species via PCR assays, and disk diffusion assays were used to determine antimicrobial susceptibility. Logistic regression analysis was used to assess risk factors for Campylobacter contamination, the level of Campylobacter contamination among positive carcasses, and antimicrobial resistance. Campylobacter spp. were confirmed in 65.4% of neck skin samples and 17.1% of packaging samples. Neck skin samples had the highest level of contamination; 13.8% of samples had >1,000 CFU/g. Large birds had a significantly higher number of samples with >1,000 CFU/g (P < 0.001). and as chicken carcass weight increased, birds were more likely to be Campylobacter positive (P < 0.05). A high prevalence of resistance was seen to ciprofloxacin (42.0% of samples), and 38.5% of samples contained at least one multidrug-resistant Campylobacter isolate. This study revealed that Halal chicken has a higher Campylobacter prevalence than does non-Halal chicken. Interventions should be introduced to reduce this public health risk.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Intensively reared Halal chickens from retailers in England were evaluated for Campylobacter.

  • Campylobacter was isolated from 65.4% of neck skin and 17.1% of packaging samples.

  • Of neck skin samples, 13.8% were contaminated with >1,000 CFU/g (the highest level).

  • Multidrug- and ciprofloxacin-resistant isolates were found in 38.5 and 42% of samples.

  • Campylobacter prevalence was higher in Halal chicken than in non-Halal chicken.

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