Poultry-based foods are thought to be one of the main sources of campylobacteriosis, which causes 200 deaths in the US alone each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The gastrointestinal disease is most commonly the result of eating raw or undercooked poultry (chickens are commonly infected), and cross-contamination can also occur due to slicing raw poultry, then using the unwashed board or knife to prepare vegetables or other lightly cooked foods.
The new deal will see AbCelex and Carton jointly research and develop products targeting campylobacter, and AbCelex said its proprietary antibody-based platform technology could prove a significant global solution to prevent or “significantly reduce” campylobacteriosis.
Carton Group CEO, Vincent Carton, said: “I am very excited about the opportunity to join AbCelex’s research team in investigating innovative technologies to reduce Campylobacter infection in our food supply, as consumers, now more than ever, are vigilant when it comes to food safety.”
“Adding innovative and effective products to our portfolio is an important aspect of our business strategy in ensuring that our birds are raised to the highest food safety and animal care standards.
Dr Saeid Babaei, AbCelex chair, said the collaboration gave his firm the opportunity to strengthen its presence with a large food company in what he said was a “rapidly growing and profitable segment”.
With a turnover of €205m, family-owned Carton Group was founded in 1775, and claims to be Ireland’s largest integrated chicken processor, dealing with 800,000 birds per week.
Grappling with campylobacter
Existing processing technologies to combat campylobacter include antimicrobial treatments, chemical feed additivies, addition of chlorine to flock drinking water and inside-outside bid washers.
A new study by US researchers, (Dirks et al. 2012) concluded that non-thermal dielectric barrier discharge plasma technology was feasible as an intervention to help reduce pathogens on raw poultry.
Antibiotic resistant strains of Salmonella enterica and Campylobacter were inoculated onto the surface of boneless, skinless chicken breast and chicken thigh with skin.
Chicken samples were inoculated with strains at levels of 101 to 104, and exposed to plasma for a time points ranging from 0-180s in 15s intervals.
The team found that plasma treatment resulted in elimination of low levels (101 CFU or ‘colony forming unit’) of both S.enterica and C.jejuni on chicken breasts, and the latter from chicken skin.
Viable S.enterica cells remained on chicken skin even after 20s of plasma exposure; plasma exposure for 30s cut background microflora on breast and skin by 0.85 and 0.21 log (logarithm), respectively, on average.
The Carton Group was not available for comment.