Reduction of extended-spectrum-β-lactamase- and AmpC-β-lactamase-producing Escherichia coli through processing in two broiler chicken slaughterhouses

Pacholewicz, Ewa; Liakopoulos, Apostolos; Swart, Arno; Gortemaker, Betty; Dierikx, Cindy; Havelaar, Arie; Schmitt, Heike


Whilst broilers are recognised as a reservoir of extended-spectrum-β-lactamase (ESBL)- and AmpC-β-lactamase (AmpC)-producing Escherichia coli, there is currently limited knowledge on the effect of slaughtering on its concentrations on poultry meat. The aim of this study was to establish the concentration of ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli on broiler chicken carcasses through processing. In addition the changes in ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli concentrations were compared with generic E. coli and Campylobacter. In two slaughterhouses, the surface of the whole carcasses was sampled after 5 processing steps: bleeding, scalding, defeathering, evisceration and chilling. In total, 17 batches were sampled in two different slaughterhouses during the summers of 2012 and 2013. ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli was enumerated on MacConkey agar with 1mg/l cefotaxime, and the ESBL/AmpC phenotypes and genotypes were characterised. The ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli concentrations varied significantly between the incoming batches in both slaughterhouses. The concentrations on broiler chicken carcasses were significantly reduced during processing. In Slaughterhouse 1, all subsequent processing steps reduced the concentrations except evisceration which led to a slight increase that was statistically not significant. The changes in concentration between processing steps were relatively similar for all sampled batches in this slaughterhouse. In contrast, changes varied between batches in Slaughterhouse 2, and the overall reduction through processing was higher in Slaughterhouse 2. Changes in ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli along the processing line were similar to changes in generic E. coli in both slaughterhouses. The effect of defeathering differed between ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli and Campylobacter. ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli decreased after defeathering, whereas Campylobacter concentrations increased. The genotypes of ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli (blaCTX-M-1, blaSHV-12, blaCMY-2, blaTEM-52c, blaTEM-52cvar) from both slaughterhouses match typical poultry genotypes. Their distribution differed between batches and changed throughout processing for some batches. The concentration levels found after chilling were between 102 and 105CFU/carcass. To conclude, changes in ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli concentrations on broiler chicken carcasses during processing are influenced by batch and slaughterhouse, pointing to the role of both primary production and process control for reducing ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli levels in final products. Due to similar changes upon processing, E. coli can be used as a process indicator of ESBL/AmpC producing E. coli, because the processing steps had similar impact on both organisms. Cross contamination may potentially explain shifts in genotypes within some batches through the processing.