Although there have been numerous studies investigating the prevalence of campylobacters in animals and raw meats, there are limited data on the persistence of these organisms in ready-to-eat (RTE) foodstuffs. Although poultry is now well established as a major reservoir of thermophilic campylobacters, it is widely assumed that hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) controls in commercial and industrial settings are effective in eliminating this hazard through thorough cooking of RTE products. Therefore, it was the primary aim of this study to investigate the effectiveness of HACCP controls in eliminating campylobacters in such cooked RTE foods by attempting to isolate viable organisms from product. Concurrently, the results of this study demonstrate that local poultry is highly contaminated with campylobacters. Commercially available RTE foodstuffs (n = 2,030) consisting of 1,061 poultry-related cooked products and 969 other products were analyzed and were not found to contain thermophilic Campylobacter spp. In addition, 107 raw chickens (63 fresh birds and 44 frozen birds) were sampled, and 94% of the fresh birds and 77% of the frozen birds examined were demonstrated to be contaminated with campylobacters, with Campylobacter jejuni, Campylobacter coli, and Campylobacter lari accounting for 69, 30, and 1% of the contaminating organisms, respectively. In general, commercially available RTE foodstuffs, including cooked poultry, are not commonly contaminated with campylobacters and thus do not appear to represent a significant cause of clinical infection of Campylobacter spp. in Northern Ireland. However, raw poultry produce, including fresh and frozen chicken, frequently tested positive for campylobacters. Implementation of HACCP systems by food processors will help to minimize and/or eliminate the risk posed by this organism to the consumer.

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