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Silver-coated poultry crates help cut bacteria contamination

By Rory Harrington , 13-Nov-2009

Crates coated with a new silver antimicrobial protection system can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination of Campylobacter among poultry during transportation, said manufacturers BioCote Ltd.

Tests carried out found that crates treated with the silver antimicrobial substance had an average of 14 times less bacteria than standard containers prior to entering the decontamination process, said the company. There was also considerably less bacteria on its crates than untreated enclosures throughout the cleansing process. The firm produced the results after trialling the system with poultry crate supplier Anglia Autoflow (AA).

The crates are now being used by major UK turkey producer Bernard Matthews to protect its birds from pathogens during transport, said AA.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in humans and is commonly found in the guts of chickens. Transportation crates used to carry chickens from farms to processing plants are known to get contaminated with Campylobacter and can cross-contaminate and infect unrelated flocks.

Less contamination

In the original trial, BioCote Ltd compared the levels of bacteria and Campylobacter contaminating standard crates to those found on its treated crates. Swabs were collected in triplicate from ten treated and ten untreated crates at key points throughout the crate decontamination process: pre-wash - once the live birds had been removed), post-wash, post-sanitisation and then 1 hour, 2 hours and 3 hours post-sanitisation - when the crates were re- circulated to pick up new flocks.

Before entering the decontamination process, the average counts of total bacteria were more than 14 times higher on standard crates than BioCote-treated crates.

Crate cycle

A company statement said: “At all points of the decontamination process BioCote-treated crates were shown to be considerably less contaminated with bacteria than standard crates. These results suggest that BioCote protection is sustainable throughout the cycle of the crates, from contact with flocks, through the decontamination process to re-contact with the flocks.”

At the end of the decontamination procedure, 90 swabs were taken from both crate types. Results showed some 44 from the untreated crates contained Campylobacter, compared to only one from the BioCote-treated crates.

“With less Campylobacter contaminating the crates when they make contact with flocks, these results suggest that BioCote can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination,” said a company spokesman.
Herluf Thun-Rasmussen Bernard Matthews Farms head of UK technical operations, said: “The antimicrobial protection continues to work for the lifetime of the crate, helping us further improve the bio-security cycle when returning clean trays back to farms for bird collection. Bio-security is our first concern, and the investment during 2010 in BioCote-protected crates will add further to our already exhaustive measures in this area.”

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