Use of MIDI-fatty acid methyl ester analysis to monitor the transmission of Campylobacter during commercial poultry processing.
ABSTRACT The presence of Campylobacter spp. on broiler carcasses and in scald water taken from a commercial poultry processing facility was monitored on a monthly basis from January through June. Campylobacter agar, Blaser, was used to enumerate Campylobacter in water samples from a multiple-tank scalder; on prescalded, picked, eviscerated, and chilled carcasses; and on processed carcasses stored at 4 degrees C for 7 or 14 days. The MIDI Sherlock microbial identification system was used to identify Campylobacter-like isolates based on the fatty acid methyl ester profile of the bacteria. The dendrogram program of the Sherlock microbial identification system was used to compare the fatty acid methyl ester profiles of the bacteria and determine the degree of relatedness between the isolates. Findings indicated that no Campylobacter were recovered from carcasses or scald tank water samples collected in January or February, but the pathogen was recovered from samples collected in March, April, May, and June. Processing generally produced a significant (P < 0.05) decrease in the number of Campylobacter recovered from broiler carcasses, and the number of Campylobacter recovered from refrigerated carcasses generally decreased during storage. Significantly (P < 0.05) fewer Campylobacter were recovered from the final tank of the multiple-tank scald system than from the first tank. MIDI similarity index values ranged from 0.104 to 0.928 based on MIDI-fatty acid methyl ester analysis of Campylobacterjejuni and Campylobacter coli isolates. Dendrograms of the fatty acid methyl ester profile of the isolates indicated that poultry flocks may introduce several strains of C. jejuni and C. coli into processing plants. Different populations of the pathogen may be carried into the processing plant by successive broiler flocks, and the same Campylobacter strain may be recovered from different poultry processing operations. However, Campylobacter apparently is unable to colonize equipment in the processing facility and contaminate broilers from flocks processed at later dates in the facility.