Campylobacter, chicken, and the regulatory performance standard



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Kansas State University


Campylobacter is recognized as a leading cause of bacterial gastroenteritis. In the United States, Campylobacter causes an estimated 600,000 illnesses and 55 deaths each year at a cost of over $1.3 billion. It is estimated that 80 percent of Campylobacter infections are foodborne with almost 50 percent of these cases attributed to poultry. Based on these statistics, Campylobacter and poultry is considered by some to be the riskiest pathogen-food combination. Campylobacter illness is usually self-limiting but serious illness and complications can occur. Serious illness requires treatment with antibiotics, but with emerging antibiotic resistance observed in Campylobacter isolates, treatment options might be limited. Therefore, it is of importance to reduce significantly the consumer’s exposure to Campylobacter through poultry consumption. In July 2011, USDA FSIS’s new performance standard for Campylobacter in chicken and turkey slaughter establishments went into effect. For chicken, the standard allows no more than eight Campylobacter-positive samples out of a fifty-one sample set. Methods for Campylobacter detection and enumeration include direct plating using a medium such as Campy-Cefex, MPN techniques, ELISA, and PCR. To meet the new performance standard the industry will need to consider improvements in poultry production. Improvements likely will not be limited to processing interventions such as scalding, picking, evisceration, and chilling. Improvements may include on-farm interventions such as enhanced biosecurity, use of competitive exclusion or vaccinations, good hygiene practices, and improved staging at introduction to processing. Post-processing interventions that might be considered include freezing or further processing (i.e. cooking) of poultry products from Campylobacter-positive flocks. Significant improvements in establishments’ food safety programs are expected to occur to meet the standard and are predicted to result in an estimated reduction of 5,000 Campylobacter illnesses per year.



Campylobacter, Performance standard, Chicken

Graduation Month



Master of Science


Food Science

Major Professor

Randall K. Phebus