Reshaping Salmonella Control in Poultry
The Need for Improved Methods
May 04, 2022 — 3 min read
By Vik Dutta DVM PhD, and J. Stan Bailey, PhD
SALMONELLA IS A CRITICAL ISSUE IN THE POULTRY INDUSTRY
Recently, the USDA-FSIS has engaged industry stakeholders to improve Salmonella control linked to poultry by seeking pilot projects and feedback on specific control and measurement strategies. The data generated from these efforts will be used to determine if a different approach could result in a reduction of Salmonella illness in consumers.
Over the years, several industry-led interventions have caused a downward trend in overall Salmonella contamination in commonly implicated food commodities like chicken, ground turkey, and ground beef. Despite these trends, the disease burden due to salmonellosis remains a persistent issue. The trends are especially concerning to the US poultry industry—despite significant improvements in processing plant interventions, poultry products continue to be implicated in attribution models and Salmonella related recalls and outbreaks.
These developments have been an ongoing concern for the industry and regulatory agencies alike, and have prompted a recent relook and refocus on overall Salmonella control measures. At bioMérieux, we look at the situation as a challenge and an opportunity to serve the poultry industry with a reinforced vigor.
POTENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING SALMONELLA CONTROL
The current performance standards for poultry are widely acknowledged to need a significant upgrade. From the industry’s point of view, they don’t work, as the sporadic presence of Salmonella provides too little information for effective decision-making concerning deployment of control strategies. Additionally, a presence/absence status does not factor in other risk categories like how much and which type of Salmonella. From the perspective of public health, the significant reduction of Salmonella in poultry has not translated into reduced human salmonellosis associated with poultry, thus the need to try different strategies and metrics to reduce human salmonellosis is urgently required.
The risk of salmonellosis associated with Salmonella is complex as host, environment, and organism all play a role in the overall epidemiology. This complexity, and the fact that previous intervention strategies have reduced Salmonella prevalence in poultry to less than five percent, warrant a need for control through additional measures.
There are two schools of thoughts that could reshape the current performance standards:
- Salmonella quantification: limit a large amount of Salmonella from getting into the food circulation
- Virulence/serotyping: limit certain types of Salmonella (the ones that tend to result more often in human salmonellosis) from getting into the food circulation
If done right, quantifying Salmonella seems like an obvious tool for Salmonella control. In addition to probable improved public health outcomes, it has a quick return on investment, as establishments can make rapid decisions on intervention strategies.
While it has been widely recognized that all Salmonella do not have an equal propensity to cause clinical cases, finding a virulent Salmonella is not an easy task. The reasons being:
- The source attribution data connecting the dots between a food commodity and a case of human salmonellosis is not strong,
- on the processing side, knowing which type of Salmonella does not help with rapid decision making, as interventions are not specific enough to target a certain type of Salmonella over others, and
- despite various rigorous scientific efforts, the virulence markers for Salmonella are not well defined.
THE ROLE OF DIAGNOSTICS
Traditional methods involving enrichments and plate media continue to play a pivotal role in detecting Salmonella. However, the gap between the information generated by these methods and actual decision making have been an ongoing challenge. The need to fill this gap is now even more critical given the ongoing public health challenges.
With the ongoing push for pilots by the USDA, bioMérieux is once again stepping up to support with industry with the latest tools and technologies. The goal is straightforward: provide accurate information for better, more timely decision making.
bioMérieux has developed a true quantification assay with a four-hour turnaround time: GENE-UP® QUANT Salmonella. This assay can potentially be implemented as a farm-based sample test used to demonstrate the Salmonella load in flocks a week before they are processed, which can give companies time to schedule processing of higher-level flocks later in the day or on separate days. In addition, this true quantification assay can be effectively used in both farm and processing plant samples to evaluate effectiveness of intervention strategies more precisely.
Together, we can use diagnostic data to make more informed decisions and better protect public health.