Foodborne Salmonella continues to affect millions in the United States each year, and poultry products are a significant source of these infections.1 Not only are plant interventions an important part of a comprehensive food safety program, but holistic and broad live-side interventions are gaining more traction.

One on-farm strategy is a comprehensive vaccine program of autogenous, inactive and live vaccines. Through vaccines, poultry producers can meet production goals and food safety requirements. There are several reasons to consider a vaccination program:

 1. Vaccines are proven technologies

There are two groups of vaccines—inactivated and live—and each plays a role in poultry health and pathogen reduction. Comprehensive Salmonella vaccination programs, when consistently applied over time, have been successfully used in broilers2 and turkeys.3     

“Commercial Salmonella vaccines require USDA authorization of efficacy, and this makes sense because live vaccines colonize in the gut, creating competitive exclusion while stimulating early bird immunity against multiple Salmonella serotypes,” said Bill Potter, Ph.D., technical advisor, Elanco Poultry Food Safety. 

2. Vaccines are different from antibiotics

There has been a growing movement toward removing antibiotic use from meat and poultry production, and consumer demand is pressuring the industry to develop and use other methods to reduce pathogen loads. 

“In today’s growing market of ‘raised without antibiotics,’ vaccines are practical technology,” said Potter. “Different types of poultry vaccines can be used to not only address Salmonella but also other types of animal health concerns, such as viruses and cocci.”

3. Vaccines complement other pre-harvest interventions

Salmonella vaccines provide unique modes of action that are used frequently with other technologies. They are an integral part of the multi-hurdle approach.4       

“For companies that like to use probiotics, litter treatments, water amendments or other interventions, vaccines can provide a different mode of action to address Salmonella at the farm and, in many cases, these complement each other,” said Potter.   

Other pre-harvest strategies are also important, such as feed and water management, hygiene and disinfection, litter management, insect and rodent control, biosecurity measures for employees and more. A comprehensive program tailored to control and manage disease will not only help the flock achieve its full potential, but also help minimize food safety risks originating from the farm.

4. Vaccines support plant interventions

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Salmonella vaccines can make the in-plant antimicrobials more effective when the pathogen loads coming into the plant are decreased. Many of the Salmonella interventions used in processing plants involve chemicals, which require specialized disposal and wastewater considerations while vaccines do not. Salmonella vaccines can play an important part of the multi-hurdle approach without environmental concerns.

“Vaccines are some of the most eco-friendly interventions for pathogen reduction and can help aid in-plant antimicrobials,” said Potter. 

5. Vaccines address the “root cause” of the problem

For decades, Food Safety and QA Professionals (FSQA) have used the Root Cause Analysis technique to address food safety problems. Professionals can take any food safety or quality problem—such as pathogen incidence, product defects, foreign material or any other challenge—and break it down using manageable sub-components to find the root cause.

“When Salmonella is an issue at the plant, it all starts with colonization of the pathogen within birds at the farm,” said Potter. “Vaccines are strategically used early in the process to address the original ‘root cause’ of the problem.”

Controlling Salmonella and other pathogens is a shared responsibility for processing plants and poultry producers, and it’s important to take a holistic approach. It takes a combination of products, tools and support services to successfully link the plant and live production for pathogen reduction. 

Recently, Dr. Potter shared more insights for building a comprehensive Salmonella vaccine program with Food Safety Magazine’s “Food Safety Matters” podcast. To listen, visit the episode. Additionally, learn how the Elanco Food Safety team can help you by visiting Working Together for Food Safety and Salmonella 360 for more information.

1 Scallan E, et al. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States--major pathogens [Internet]. Emerging infectious diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2011 [cited 2021Aug5]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3375761/ 

2 Dórea FC, Cole DJ, Hofacre C, Zamperini K, Mathis D, Doyle MP, et al. Effect of salmonella vaccination of breeder chickens on contamination of broiler chicken carcasses in integrated poultry operations. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2010;76(23):7820–5.

3 Hesse M, Stamm A, Weber R, Glünder G. Efficacy of a salmonella live vaccine for turkeys in different age groups and antibody response of vaccinated and non-vaccinated turkeys. BMC Research Notes. 2018;11(1). 

4 Cox JM, Pavic A. Advances in enteropathogen control in poultry production. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 2010;108(3):745–55.