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Campylobacter spp. in Broiler Flocks at Farm Level and the Potential for Cross-Contamination During Slaughter


L. I. Ellerbroek. Institut für Risikobewertung, Diedersdorfer Weg 1, D-12277 Berlin, Germany. Tel.: ++ 49 30 8412 2121; Fax: ++ 49 30 8412 2966; E-mail:


Screening of broiler flocks for their Campylobacter carriage on farm level and consequently the spread of Campylobacter spp. during slaughtering can help to identify hygiene control points. Therefore, between December 2001 and August 2002 in total 51 broiler flocks from three farms of different geographical regions in Germany were analysed for thermophilic Campylobacter. Campylobacter spp. were isolated from 45% of the broiler flocks examined. Subsequently, 1101 samples were taken from 22 flocks during different stages of processing. Samples were collected from: transport crates before and after cleaning/disinfection, evisceration, post-scalded and post-chilled carcasses and endproducts. Additionally, 45 selected Campylobacter isolates of droppings were genotyped by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). Campylobacter carriage of flocks showed seasonal variation, with the highest contamination rate during the period of June to August. No evidence was found for a horizontal transmission from one broiler flock to the next via a persistent house-contamination. In each positive flock, one to three different genotypes were found. One or two clones dominated isolations obtained from the farm level. The fact that in different flocks indistinguishable isolates of clonal origin were detected during the same rearing period suggested a transmission between the broiler flocks or an intermittent common external source. In one case, isolates of clonal origin were detected in various farms during different rearing periods. Sampling during processing confirmed that the entrance of a positive flock resulted in contamination of the abattoir environment. Campylobacter spp. were isolated from all sampling stages along the processing line, with a percentage of 91.1–100 of isolates at different stages of slaughtering.