Broiler carcasses in a processing plant.

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Controlling Salmonella and Improving Food Safety in Poultry

4 minute read

The food supply is safer today than ever before, yet there are an estimated 2 million cases of Salmonella resulting in 2,000 deaths in the United States each year. Improving intestinal health and controlling foodborne illness are critical parts of poultry production.

Learn More: Performance Trace Minerals Help Control Salmonella

Charles Hofacre, DVM, MAM, Ph.D., CEO at The Southern Poultry Research Group, gave a presentation on the importance of intestinal health in the prevention of Salmonella in poultry during the Zinpro International Poultry Seminar in Chicago in August 2019.

I sat down with Dr. Hofacre after his presentation to get more details about Salmonella, food safety and controlling foodborne illness with reduced antibiotic use.

Q&A Session with Charles Hofacre, Ph.D.

Marco Rebollo: Is there a direct link between reducing the use of antibiotics in poultry production and Salmonella?

Charles Hofacre: There is actually not a direct link between the two. Early on, producers thought that as we use less growth-promoting antibiotics we may see more Salmonella and other food safety issues but, in reality, we don’t.

A major reason for this is because Salmonella lives in the ceca, which is the lower part of the intestine, while most diseases that were controlled by growth-promoting antibiotics are associated with the small intestine. Additionally, poultry production companies have learned how to manage the birds without the use of growth-promoting antibiotics, so gut health issues haven’t changed the playing field for Salmonella.

MR: So, if there aren’t any direct links, are there any indirect links between reducing antibiotic use and Salmonella?

CH: The biggest link we see between Salmonella and not using antibiotics is when we have necrotic enteritis in chickens. Some birds that become infected with necrotic enteritis don’t die, but instead become sick. They don’t eat or convert feed and, therefore, won’t grow as well.

Learn More: Necrotic Enteritis is Robbing Your Profits

The processing equipment at poultry processing facilities is set for target-sized birds. For example, the target size might be 2 kilos (4.5 pounds). The birds that got sick may have only grown to 1.5 kilos (3.3 pounds) and the equipment doesn’t know how to adjust for those smaller birds. In this case, the equipment will tear the intestines or break the crop, allowing intestinal contents to get onto the carcass, increasing the risk of Salmonella or Campylobacter contamination.

MR: What else can you tell us about necrotic enteritis in chickens?

CH: Necrotic enteritis in chickens is caused by Clostridium perfringens, an anaerobic bacterium that lives when there is no oxygen. It’s also a soil bacterium that is present in every chicken house in the world. Therefore, it is a part of the normal flora in the intestine of a chicken because chickens are always pecking around on the ground.

When they become infected by an intestinal disease like coccidiosis, the coccidial protozoa disrupt the normal function of the gut and cause the Clostridium perfringens to bloom and kill intestinal cells. The human equivalent would be Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome.

MR: What should poultry producers know about Salmonella or Coccidiosis vaccines?

CH: Live Salmonella vaccines are expensive, so it’s not something that is done across the board in the poultry industry. Producers will use Salmonella vaccines if they suspect they have a Salmonella issue or if they’re not meeting performance standards.

Salmonella can also be controlled in broilers by lowering Salmonella levels in breeders. Vaccinating breeders is very effective. 

Performance Trace Minerals Improve Vaccine Uptake

Supplementing your poultry nutrition and feeding program with Zinpro Performance Minerals® helps manage Salmonella through four primary mechanisms:

  • Cell renewal in the epithelial tissue, mainly in the intestinal tract and skin
  • Faster healing
  • Strengthening tight junctions and intestinal barrier to maintain epithelial tissue integrity
  • A more robust immune response to bacteria, pathogen or toxin challenges

trace mineral research study conducted at Auburn University revealed that birds fed zinc from Zinpro® Availa® Zn showed increased intestinal strength. The study also showed that Salmonella Enteritidis was significantly reduced when zinc from Availa-Zn was added to zinc sulfate, or when Availa-Zn and Zinpro® Availa® Mn replaced a part of the poultry nutrition plan.

Additionally, feeding zinc and manganese from performance trace minerals has shown to increase the effectiveness of vaccinations in young birds, particularly in antibiotic-free production.

Contact your Zinpro representative today to learn more about feeding Zinpro Performance Minerals as a part of your poultry nutrition and feeding program.