Salmonella hard to control at farm level

RED DEER — Staying ahead of salmonella is a long, involved process for poultry producers.

Three salmonella varieties are reportable in Alberta.

Salmonella enteriditis is most common in people. It does not make chickens sick but it can kill vulnerable people, said Delores Peters of Alberta Agriculture.

“People die of salmonella every year so for food safety emphasis, that is why it is important,” she said.

Alberta Agriculture becomes involved if public health authorities suspect it came from the farm.

The concern over salmonella in meat and eggs was discussed at the Western Poultry Conference held in Red Deer on Feb. 24.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year about one in eight people get sick from a domestically acquired food-borne pathogen like salmonella, E. coli or campylobacter.

The breeding and hatchery sectors have been working on this salmonella since the early 1990s. It persists so strict on-farm food safety is required, as well as consumer education to cook meat and eggs properly.

“Yet Salmonella enteriditis is still increasing so we have traditionally relied on consumer education,” she said.

Salmonella is hard to control at the farm level, said Scott Gustin of Tyson Foods.

Salmonella and campylobacter are still controlled mostly at the processing plant but every part of the food chain needs to be diligent, including biosecurity and sanitation on the farm, he said.

Insects and rodents as well as other animals and people on the farm could be inadvertent carriers.

“If you have a salmonella problem and do not have a rodent control program, you are wasting your time,” he said.

Peters said Salmonella can live for up to a year in dust, manure and fans.

There also needs to be the right amount of down time between flocks to properly clean out a facility because the disease can linger in nooks and crannies. Older farms with old style barns are harder to clean. More people are installing easy to clean facilities.

“From the outside looking in, I don’t understand why you guys have a (Salmonella enteriditis) problem. Your standards of sanitation are much better. I don’t see the challenges of biosecurity that we have in the U.S., so I am a little bit puzzled,” Gustin said.

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