A 360-Degree Approach Is Critical for Reducing Salmonella in Live-Side Poultry Production

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) launched a new comprehensive focus on reducing Salmonella illnesses caused by poultry products. A key component encouraged by FSIS is to consider pre-harvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination entering the plant.

For years, CDC (Centers for Disease Control) attributed a large portion of foodborne illnesses to Salmonella associated with chickens, turkeys, and eggs. FSIS is looking to reduce these Salmonella illnesses by working with poultry companies on advancing initiatives such as pilot projects, preharvest controls and quantitative measures of Salmonella loads. “Addressing Salmonella in broiler and turkey operations requires a comprehensive, 360-degree approach to food safety,” said Bill Potter, Ph.D., Elanco Food Safety Technical Advisor. “Effective live-side production practices can help reduce Salmonella incidences in  multiple ways.”

A Holistic 360o approach to salmonella reduction pre-harvest
A 360-degree approach to preventing Salmonella pre-harvest can be divided into five major components:

• Vaccines can be used to build Salmonella immunity and offer protection throughout the life cycle, including the progeny.
• Intestinal Integrity programs are used to support bird immunity and reduce opportunities for Salmonella to colonize.
• Nutritional and functional feed supplements help mitigate Salmonella colonization while improving bird performance.
• Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs reduce external Salmonella vectors with insecticides and rodenticides.
• Farm and poultry house best management practices reduce Salmonella proliferation through effective management of water, bedding material, biosecurity and cleaning practices.

1. Start with a vaccination program
A vaccination program is the first step to build bird immunity and help prevent Salmonella colonization. When Salmonella is an issue at the plant, it all starts with colonization of the pathogen within birds at the farm. Vaccines are used strategically early in the process to address the root cause of the problem. Comprehensive Salmonella vaccination programs in breeders and meat birds, when consistently applied over time, have been successfully used in broilers and turkeys. There are two groups of vaccines — inactivated and live — and each plays a role in poultry health and pathogen reduction. When Salmonella vaccines decrease pathogen loads coming into the plant, the in-plant interventions have a lower burden of decreasing quantitative loads and have an improved likelihood of effectiveness.

2. Implement supplements that promote intestinal integrity
Bird health and food safety go hand in hand. That’s why it’s important for producers to consider products that promote intestinal integrity by reducing coccidiosis, necrotic enteritis, and other areas of damage to intestinal strength. The intestinal wall acts as a physical barrier preventing the colonization of harmful bacteria or otherwise harmful pathogens that could lead to food safety concerns down the line. “Gut health plays a vital role in nutrition absorption, development of immunity and disease resistance in birds,” said Potter. “However, when gut health is compromised, diseases such as coccidiosis can cause major concerns in a producer’s flock, predisposing birds to necrotic enteritis (NE). When birds start to have incidences of coccidiosis and NE, it can lead to an increase in Salmonella colonization.”

An effective Intestinal Integrity program includes careful planning with ionophores and non-antibiotic Intestinal Integrity products as well as management strategies. When issues arise, producers can evaluate and adjust their disease prevention program to maintain Intestinal Integrity.

3. Consider nutritional and functional feed supplements
The advancement of functional feed ingredients in recent years has been a valuable benefit for decreasing pathogens at the farm. These feed ingredients include a variety of modes of action to reduce Salmonella, such as prebiotics, probiotics, competitive exclusion products, acidifiers, gut oxygen modulators, pathogen agglutination compounds and numerous other roles.

One of the most important functions some of these nutritional health products provide is improving the intestinal wall physiology, such as increased villi length and tighter gap junctions. These attributes not only lead to reduced pathogen colonization but also can improve nutrient absorption, leading to improved bird growth performance.

4. Adhere to insect and rodent control programs
Controlling insects and rodents is often seen as a way to manage the well-being and performance potential of a poultry flock, but this should also be considered a crucial strategy for reducing Salmonella proliferation at the farm. Common pests, such as darkling beetles, mites, flies, and rodents can carry Salmonella and other pathogens into poultry barns. An effective IPM program can address infestations, create a cleaner environment for the birds and reduce the potential for Salmonella to further enter operations.

5. Follow poultry farm best management practices
Other strategies are important to reduce Salmonella proliferation pre-harvest, including optimal feed and water management, hygiene and disinfection of the poultry house, litter management, and biosecurity measures. A comprehensive program tailored to control and manage disease will not only help the flock achieve its full potential but also help minimize food safety risks originating from the farm.

Working together to reduce salmonella in poultry production
“Reducing the risk of Salmonella in poultry products is an enormous responsibility, and one that can’t be placed on the plant alone,” said Potter. Pathogen reduction can be successful at multiple steps along the entire continuum from farm to plant. Improved technologies in Salmonella quantification and detection have made measuring the impact of preharvest interventions more possible than ever before.

By reducing Salmonella infections in live-bird operations, poultry producers can decrease the likelihood that Salmonella will be a problem at the processing plant and beyond.