The programme on eggs and poultry contains two sub-programmes of research: eggs and poultry.
Salmonella contamination of eggs was one of the main microbiological food safety issues of the 1990s. Despite the significant effort directed at reducing the salmonella contamination of eggs, there is the need for further research in this area. A Department of Health funded survey carried out in 1995/96 gave similar results to one conducted in 1991, i.e. that approximately 1 in 600 eggs were contaminated with salmonella, with the majority of the contamination thought to be on, as opposed to in, the egg. Since then the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food Working Group on Salmonella in Eggs was set up to establish the factors which determine the presence of salmonella contamination in or on eggs and to recommend measures to reduce such contamination and consumers exposure to it. The research in the egg sub-programme has been commissioned to provide data on:
- the growth of salmonellas in eggs
- the risk of cross-contamination from the contaminated external surface of eggs
- the degree to which government advice to avoid eating raw or undercooked foods containing them is adhered to in the catering industry
- the ability of egg washing to reduce the level of Salmonella present on the shell and to determine whether washing results in Salmonella moving from the shell into the contents.
In recent years, much effort has been devoted to improving hygiene on poultry farms and throughout the processing, distribution and retail chains. The industry has introduced stringent measures which have reduced the levels of Salmonella contamination in raw poultry. However, these control measures have had less effect on Campylobacter in poultry and levels of this organism remain high. Research in the poultry programme aims to identify control measures which will reduce the levels of Salmonella and Campylobacter in chickens. In particular, individual projects have been commission to:
Identify critical points for the infection of live birds or contamination of poultry carcasses with Campylobacter and Salmonella
Assess the efficacy of water disinfections systems for broiler units.
The Agency is funding research to:
- examine the effects of bird age on the ability of eggs to support/control the growth of salmonella
- correlate changes in egg quality with salmonella growth rates
- determine the bacterial factors important in the growth of salmonella in eggs
- investigate the survival of salmonella on the egg surface
- determine the ease with which the organisms can be transferred from the egg surface to other surfaces such as hands and kitchen benches
- assess the likelihood that the organism will be transferred from the outside of an egg to the contents during cracking
- assess the current state of knowledge about egg washing and quantify the extent of salmonella contamination on and within the egg before and after egg washing
- determine the nature and extent of adherence to Government guidance on the safe use of eggs in the catering industry
- audit production of broiler chickens from breeder flocks to the end of poultry processing to obtain better information on sources of contamination with salmonellas and campylobacters and identify points of significance within the poultry production chain where intervention methods could be applied
- To investigate the significance of water delivery systems to poultry contamination, assess current cleaning and disinfecting regimes and apply HACCP principles to the water delivery systems to produce a generic HACCP plan for use in a commercial environment.