Work on natural approaches to poultry bacterial control, be it on farm or at processing, was much in evidence at the International Poultry Scientific Forum, held in conjunction with the International Production and Processing Expo.

The work reflected the growing trend towards limiting use of antibiotics in animal production and a growing consumer preference for natural, as opposed to chemical interventions to ensure the safety of food products.

Various universities presented their work and, while in most cases more studies need to be conducted, the findings presented offered some encouraging results. 

Work discussed included the use of essential oils in the control of Salmonella and Campylobacter. Some concerns were raised over the unwanted effect of essential oils influencing the taste of finished product, however, in the studies presented, this was found not to be an issue.

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It was noted that each year, in the U.S. alone, there are 9.4 million cases of foodborne illnesses. By way of example, in 2011, 30 percent of ground chicken samples were found to be contaminated with Salmonella. As greater restrictions are placed on current methods of controlling bacteria, figures such as these will likely grow and take on a greater significance. 

Lauric arginate and a blend of orange and thyme essential oils were among approaches examined. Work on the former was presented by Mississippi State University, which looked at reducing Salmonella on fresh, skinless, boneless chicken breast fillets. The results of the study indicated that surface application of lauric arginate was effective in reducing Salmonella in breast fillets during refrigerated aerobic storage without negatively affecting meat color. 

In the latter study looking at orange and thyme essential oils, it was found that the combination had a synergistic effect, greater than when the two oils were used separately. The oils result in cell death, so lowering Salmonella and Campylobacter numbers. The work at North Carolina State University showed a reduction in bacteria count on breast meat and wings and the approach could be used to enhance food safety of raw chicken products.

Plans are afoot to add the combination to marinade solutions and conduct sensory work.