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Chicken Baseline Project a First for Alberta


July 24, 2008
By Agri-News Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

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July 24, 2008 – A baseline study conducted by Alberta Agriculture and Rural
Development's Food Safety Division (FSD) has determined the presence of
food-borne pathogens and bacteria in Alberta chicken carcasses is
similar to that found in other jurisdictions.

The study, which involved collecting 1,474 samples from poultry
carcasses in 65 provincially inspected abattoirs, is the first one
conducted in the province and will be used to assess procedures
introduced to improve food safety.

"We intend to do another study to see if these procedures
(interventions) have made a difference. If you don't have this
baseline, you cannot measure improvements," says Dr. Valerie Bohaychuk,
a FSD scientist for Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Although the levels of bacteria found during the study are comparable
to other jurisdictions, there is always room for improvement in the
chicken production chain to reduce those levels, Bohaychuk says.

Efforts are already underway in the province to improve good
manufacturing practices and to put into place Hazard Analysis and
Critical Control Point (HACCP) based processes in the abattoirs.

HACCP is recognized around the world as a science-based system to
ensure food safety by preventing potential hazards before they can
impact food safety. Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development can
provide some funding to eligible processors under a federal program to
improve food safety systems. The department also offers some technical
guidance on the development of food safety systems.

It took a little more than a year to collect the samples during 2004
and 2005. The project was a collaborative project with FSD and the
Regulatory Services Division, involving more than 30 people including
scientists, lab technicians, veterinary epidemiologists and inspectors.

The rinsed chicken carcasses were tested for non-food-borne
disease-causing bacteria (total aerobic bacteria, coliform bacteria and
E. coli) and food-borne disease-causing bacteria (shiga toxin-producing
E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter).

The study is part of a comprehensive system of government projects looking at many types of food from farm to fork.