Good Fayre or Fowl Play? The Role and Impact of Biosecurity in the Control of Campylobacter in Commercial Broiler Production

Royden, AL
(2018) Good Fayre or Fowl Play? The Role and Impact of Biosecurity in the Control of Campylobacter in Commercial Broiler Production. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Campylobacter is the leading cause of human bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide and is estimated to affect ~600,000 people per annum in the UK alone. Poultry meat products account for >70% of cases of campylobacteriosis and the reduction of Campylobacter contamination of chicken meat has become a food safety priority. Campylobacter spp. are ubiquitous in the poultry farm environment and therefore biosecurity interventions are the main stay for prevention of broiler flock colonisation. This project aimed to investigate the role and impact of biosecurity in the control of Campylobacter in previously unexplored and neglected areas of commercial broiler production. A qualitative study of broiler farmers’ attitudes and perceptions to biosecurity was used to identify incentives and barriers for maintaining biosecurity protocols. Twenty-eight broiler farm owners, managers and workers on 16 broiler farms were interviewed; revealing a high level of understanding of farm responsibility in Campylobacter reduction. Participants’ self-reported awareness and implementation of biosecurity has improved since the focus on Campylobacter control in commercial broilers has arisen. More must be done to communicate the evidence-base supporting biosecurity interventions and current scientific research on Campylobacter. Biosecurity compliance may be improved by establishing effective channels of communication with farmers and involving all players within the industry in the design of biosecurity interventions. Longitudinal sampling of the internal and external broiler house environment investigated risk factors for Campylobacter colonisation of broiler flocks; increasing mean flock age at slaughter, partial flock depopulation (thinning) and Campylobacter-positive external broiler house samples were identified as risk factors for colonisation and an increasing number of broiler houses and timing of sampling were protective. Finally, a retail survey of Campylobacter contamination of UK-produced, intensively reared Halal chicken meat was conducted. Previous surveys have not investigated broiler meat produced for different consumer demographics. The Campylobacter spp. prevalence was 65.4% (95% CI: 60.8-70.1%) in chicken neck skin samples and the highest level of contamination (>1000 cfu/g) was found in 13.8% (95% CI: 10.5-17.2%) of samples. A high prevalence of resistance was observed to the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin (42.0%; 95% CI: 37.3-46.8%) and 38.5% of samples contained at least one multi-drug resistant Campylobacter isolate. This study demonstrated that Halal chicken has a higher prevalence of Campylobacter than non-Halal chicken (65.4% versus 54%; p<0.001). Chickens produced for the Halal market undergo multiple thinning events, which may increase the risk of Campylobacter colonisation. Large birds had a statistically significantly higher number of samples with >1000 cfu/g (p<0.001), indicating that older birds, which may have been subjected to more biosecurity breaches, are more likely to be Campylobacter-positive. Correct implementation of biosecurity interventions is the best defence against Campylobacter colonisation of broiler flocks. Industry targets to reduce Campylobacter have had a noticeable, positive knock-on effect on the implementation of biosecurity within the broiler industry. There has been little evidence of ‘fowl play’ in the implementation of biosecurity on broiler farms. However, there is room for improvement in the application of biosecurity measures in all corners of commercial broiler production. Parts of the UK broiler industry are lagging behind and this increased public health risk to affected consumer demographics, such as the Halal market, must be reduced. This will ensure a further reduction in the public health risk of campylobacteriosis and the continued production of ‘good fayre’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2019 11:56
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2021 08:11
DOI: 10.17638/03033478