Chicken crates with the silver touch help reduce bacterial contamination in poultry flocks

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A trial of BioCote protected chicken crates for Anglia Autoflow Ltd, a live bird handling company, has shown that silver antimicrobial protection can help reduce risk of cross-contamination of harmful Campylobacter amongst poultry flocks.

Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in humans and is commonly found in the guts of chickens.  Transportation crates used to carry chickens from farms to processing plants are known to get contaminated with Campylobacter and can cross-contaminate and infect unrelated flocks. 

Anglia Autoflow Ltd, the UKs leading supplier of poultry transportation crates, has introduced a new range with BioCote antimicrobial protection.  Once BioCote silver ion technology is incorporated into the crates at the manufacturing stage they can inhibit the growth of bacteria, such as Campylobacter, on their surface, reducing the risk of crates becoming a source of contamination and infection in the poultry industry.

In the trial, BioCote Ltd compared the levels of bacteria and Campylobacter contaminating standard crates to those found on BioCote-treated crates.  Swabs were collected in triplicate from ten treated and ten untreated crates at key points throughout the crate decontamination process: pre-wash (once the live birds were removed), post-wash, post-sanitisation and then 1 hour, 2 hours and 3 hours post-sanitisation (representing when the crates were re-circulated to pick up new flocks). 

Before entering the decontamination process, the average counts of total bacteria were more than 14 times higher on standard crates than BioCote-treated crates. At all points of the decontamination process BioCote-treated crates were shown to be considerably less contaminated with bacteria than standard crates.  These results suggest that BioCote protection is sustainable throughout the cycle of the crates, from contact with flocks, through the decontamination process to re-contact with the flocks.

At all points of the decontamination process fewer Campylobacters were detected contaminating the treated crates compared to untreated crates.  At the end of the decontamination process, when crates make contact with new flocks, there was considerably less Campylobacter present on BioCote-treated crates compared to standard ones.  Of the 90 swabs taken from both crate types, 44 from the untreated crates contained Campylobacter, compared to only one from the BioCote-treated crates.  With less Campylobacter contaminating the crates when they make contact with flocks, these results suggest that BioCote can help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

BioCotes microbiologist Richard Hastings comments: This is an important and innovative use of antimicrobial technology and shows how BioCote protection can help reduce the risk of cross contamination during the poultry transportation process.  Crates with BioCote protection harboured less bacteria and Campylobacter, which suggests that they are less likely to pass bacteria from flock to flock.

The results of this trial have implications for the food industry as they suggest there is potential to incorporate BioCote into other products used in food production to assist in reducing the risks of cross contamination.

Our results showed that levels of bacteria increased one hour after the crates were cleaned, indicating that cleaning had no long-term decontamination effect.  With cleaning and sanitisation ineffective in eradicating Campylobacters, its clear that BioCote could act as an additional decontamination solution, being more effective than cleaning alone.

Anglia Autoflow Ltds Sales Director, Barry Landymore, added: By using BioCote technology we hope to reduce the number of Campylobacters on our crates, leading to cleaner, more hygienic and ultimately safer poultry transportation.  By reducing the level of Campylobacters being transported around the poultry rearing and processing system we aim to reduce the risks of Campylobacter outbreaks faced by farmers and food processors. 

Campylobacters are a major cause of food poisoning so any intervention to reduce the risk of Campylobacters being transmitted from poultry to humans is necessary.  This study suggests there are a number of benefits of incorporating BioCote into poultry transportation crates to help meet this objective.

BioCote technology is based on silver, which is a safe, natural antimicrobial, commonly used in wound dressings and surface-coated catheters to reduce the risk of infection.  BioCote inhibits the growth of a wide range of bacteria on the surface of products, making them cleaner and more hygienic to use.  BioCote Ltd works with a growing number of manufacturers supplying the food processing sector to incorporate this cutting edge technology into their products at the manufacturing stage.  Silver can be incorporated into a variety of materials including plastics, fabrics, paints, powder coatings and papers.

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