Potential causes of contamination of poultry during the slaughtering and processing procedures include contact of the carcass with body parts that contain a high microbial load (e.g. feathers, feet, intestinal contents), use of contaminated equipment, and physical manipulation of the meat (e.g. deboning, cutting, mincing).
Prevention of microbial contamination involves careful regulation and monitoring of the farms, slaughtering and processing plants, proper handling and storage, validated routine cleaning procedures and adequate cooking of raw and processed poultry products.
Poultry provides an excellent medium for the growth of microorganisms. The principal spoilage bacteria found on poultry include Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus, Micrococcus, Acinetobacter, and Moraxella. In addition, poultry often supports the growth of certain pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria, such as Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp.
The organism of great concern and focus currently is Campylobacter spp. It accounts for the most incidents of food borne infection in the UK. The poultry industry is investigating many interventions to reduce the level of Campylobacter spp. contamination of raw chicken. These interventions range across the whole farming and production process and are being monitored and benchmarked by the poultry industry working in conjunction with the FSA and Retailers.
Cleaning in a poultry processing plant involves the removal of gross debris from large and hazardous equipment. Typically, medium pressure washdown systems are used for foam application and rinsing. Soils vary dependant on the process and include high levels of protein in the early stages of abattoir and fats after the scald tank.