High-intensity pulsed light cuts Campylobacter on poultry and packaging

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salmonella enteritidis Gastroenteritis Microbiology

High intensity pulsed light (HILP) technology is effective in decontaminating the surface of both meat and food contact materials in packaged chicken, new research has claimed.

A team from University College Dublin (UCD) found that HILP was able to significantly reduce counts of foodborne bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella Enteritidis and E.coli on both chicken and commonly used packaging.

The technology uses broad spectrum releases high-intensity light in intermittent short pulses to reduce or eliminate pathogens.

The study – Efficacy of High Pulsed Light for Microbial Decontamination of Chicken, Associated Packaging and Contact Surfaces​ – said exposing both packing and the meat to HILP at 3Hz and a maximum of 505J/pulse resulted in a reduction in the microbial count.

The study highlights campylobacter as the major global cause of gastroenteritis and pinpoints cross contamination from external packaging as key. Last year, the Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) urged retailers to source poultry in leak-proof packaging after Campylobacter was discovered on the external surface of around one in seven packs.

The UCD scientists said risk assessment studies had shown that the most effective way to tackle Campylobacter was to aim at reducing concentration of the bacteria rather than cutting their prevalence on poultry carcasses and products.

“Sequential reduction in the numbers of Campylobacter coming through the food chain at pertinent stages can result in an overall decrease in the prevalence of foodborne illnesses associated with that organism,”​ said the study.


Complete inactivation of Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.coli in liquid was also achieved after 30 seconds, said the paper by Paul Whyte et al published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease.

The researchers found that reductions of 3.56, 4.69, and 4.60 log10 cfu/cm2 were observed after 5 seconds of HILP treatment of Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli, and Salmonella Enteritidis inoculated onto packaging materials and contact surfaces, respectively.

The greatest reductions on inoculated chicken skin were 1.22, 1.69, and 1.27 log10 cfu/g for C. jejuni, E. coli, and Salmonella Enteritidis, respectively.

Corresponding reductions on inoculated skinless breast meat were 0.96, 1.13, and 1.35 log10 cfu/g.

The effectiveness of HILP treatment for reducing microbial levels on chicken increased as the film thickness decreased.


HILP is effective as a surface decontaminant on chicken and packaging, said the research. Short treatment times can be used as there was little difference between microbial decontamination after 2 and 30 seconds. Using shorter times has the advantage of not affecting product quality.

The method has the potential to be used to reduce Campylobacter levels on external packaging surfaces and raw poultry, said the scientists.

Efficacy of high-intensity pulsed light for the microbiological decontamination of chicken, associated packaging, and contact surfaces
Source: Foodborne Pathogens and Disease by Pippa N. Haughton, James G. Lyng, Desmond J. Morgan, Denis A. Cronin, Seamus Fanning, Paul Whyte

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