PARMA, ITALY – Results of a survey on Campylobacter and Salmonella in chicken at slaughterhouses in the European Union have been published by The European Food Safety Authority (E.F.S.A.). In most E.U. member states, a high prevalence of Campylobacter was found in chickens, whereas Salmonella was less frequently detected.

These pathogens are the cause of the two most-reported foodborne diseases in humans in the E.U.: campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis. This was E.F.S.A.’s sixth baseline survey on foodborne bacteria carried out at E.U. level and the first to directly investigate the presence of Campylobacter and Salmonella in chickens at slaughter.

All member states participating in the survey carried out in 2008 reported Campylobacter in the chickens they sampled. The samples were taken at the beginning and at the end of the slaughter line, that is respectively when the chickens arrive at the slaughterhouse and when their carcasses are chilled after slaughtering. On average, the bacterium was found in the intestines of 71% of chickens, indicating that they were already infected when alive, and on 76% of sampled carcasses, which suggests some further contamination during slaughtering.

These figures varied greatly between member states, the survey shows. The survey follows a recent opinion of E.F.S.A.’s Biological Hazards (B.I.O.H.A.Z). Panel, which confirmed poultry meat appears to be a major, if not the largest, source of campylobacter infection in humans.

Twenty-two member states reported Salmonella in the chicken carcasses they sampled. On average, 15.7% of sampled carcasses were found to be contaminated, although figures varied between member states. Of the various types of Salmonella, 17 member states reported the types Enteritidis and Typhimurium, which are responsible for most Salmonella infections in humans.

Providing comparable figures for all participating member states in order to give an overview of the prevalence at slaughter of Campylobacter in chickens and of Campylobacter and Salmonella in chicken carcasses were the goals of the survey. It also sets out recommendations, in particular for further research on factors affecting the spread of Campylobacter in chicken meat production and on best methods for surveillance and control of Campylobacter.