Columbus’s egg

Chicken without Salmonella soon to become a reality?  As far as breeding is concerned at least, the war against the bacterium continues relentlessly. As for regulation, it is constantly been strengthened to protect the consumer. But even the strictest hygiene cannot itself alone achieve miracles. Sooner or later, a decisive scientific step in the right direction will be required. This is exactly what is being prepared at the Animal Science Unit of Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech. The solution? It’s in the egg of course!

pouletThe year 2011 will probably not be an insignificant one for chicken breeders. In fact it should see the entry into law of a European regulation which will introduce a policy of zero tolerance for certain kinds of salmonellae at the abattoir stage- the two most problematic serotypes in matters of public health: Enteritidis and Typhimurium. The intransigence of the European Union can be explained very simply: the infamous bacteria is the second highest cause of food-borne infections in humans, and the poultry sector is frequently singled out  as being responsible.

Such a constraint is merely a new sword of Damocles hanging over the head of poultry breeders.  It is true that even if Salmonella does not directly affect the health of their chickens or compromise their growth, it can henceforth create a lot of problems for them on the economic front. The sector is fragile and its profit margins are limited. If the practical introduction of this regulation is not stopped as we write these lines, we can here?by affirm that it will create additional costs for the breeders whose flocks will be tested positive.

In the last few years, the poultry breeding sector has made huge progress in matters of hygiene. Nonetheless, if we look at the latest data available (1), 3.1% of Belgian broiler flocks are still declared positive three weeks before their slaughter, while 6% of carcasses still show unfavourable results. This is lower than the European average and the percentage is getting lower year by year. Yet it still involves, in absolute figures, more than 14 million animals!

Rapid growth

What can be done, given that the use of antibiotics for preventive purposes has been totally banned since 2006? Even though the laying and reproduction industries have opted for vaccination and this has yielded excellent results, the solution is more difficult to find when it involves a broiler. The latter develops during a very short cycle, 42 days between hatching and slaughter! In such a limited time span, the immune system of the animal does not have the time to develop an active immunity by means of a vaccination. In other words, it doesn’t have time to produce its own antibodies in order to protect itself.


(1) Federal agency for safety of the food chain, AFSCA (report 2010)

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