Cleaning and disinfection in the poultry processing sector

The poultry sector plays an important role in Europe not only as a meat supplier but also culturally and economically. Plenty of European dishes include chicken or turkey as an ingredient. The poultry meat consumption across the European Union reached 11.817 million metric tons in 2022.

The EU produced an estimated 13.2 million tons of poultry meat in 2021, which was the equivalent of an estimated 2.9 % decline on the amount in 2020. This reduction should be seen against the backdrop of a strong upward trend in production. Between 2006 and 2021, EU production of poultry meat rose by 3.9 million tons, a cumulative rise of about 41 %.

In this post we are going to deal with the main characteristics and problematics of the sector from a hygienic point of view and provide you with the best possible solutions.

The big European producers

When it comes to production, poultry meat is the second most produced and consumed meat in the EU, after pork (Figure 1). Broiler production is significantly the largest sub-sector of the poultry meat production chain, followed by bovine meat, and sheep and goat meat.

Figure 1. Production of meat, by species, EU2006-2021 (Source: Eurostat)

Figure 2. Poultry meat production in the EU (Source: European Commission)

 

Figura 3. Principales productos de carne avícola en EU

Figure 3. Main producers of poultry products in the EU (Source: European Commission)

According to Eurostat, six member states produced nearly three-quarters of all EU production with Poland continuing to be the largest producer, manufacturing 19% of production in 2021. Next is France (13%) followed by Spain (12%), Germany (12%), Italy (10%) and then a jump to the Netherlads (7%).

Quality and safety issues are of big concern in the poultry industry, and particularly in poultry slaughterhouses and cutting plants, where the implementation of strategies to control pathogenic microorganisms is key to obtain safe food for the consumer, as well as to minimize the presence of spoilage microorganisms, which can reduce the products’ shelf life.

Poultry meat is a highly perishable food since it is an excellent medium for microbial growth. Spoilage microorganisms affect the shelf life of the product when the number of microorganisms per gram in a piece of meat exceeds 1.0 x 105 cfu/cm2 (Poultry Meat Processing and Quality). It is then when alterations begin to appear in the form of unpleasant odour, colour alterations, surface viscosity, and the product becomes unacceptable for human consumption. Therefore, all surfaces through which the product passes must be as hygienic as possible to prevent the transfer of microorganisms. Consequently, a number of strategies should be taken into consideration to prevent the multiplication of microorganisms , namely: freezing and frozen storage, cleaning and disinfection, personal hygiene, spatial separation of areas, sanitations during the working day, etc. Pseudomonas is the most common spoilage microorganism which can affect the organoleptic quality of the product.

Additionally, if investing in preventive strategies is not considered, the presence of pathogenic microorganisms can represent a significant impact on public health. The bacteria causing the largest number of zoonotic outbreaks is Campylobacter, followed by Salmonella. Another common bacterium on poultry meat is Listeria, which is responsible for a high mortality rate. Other pathogenic microorganisms that can be found in the poultry processing plants are E. Coli and Staphylococcus spp.

Biofilms

Biofilm formation represents also a threat to meat safety as many foodborne pathogens can develop biofilms in areas that are difficult to be properly cleaned and disinfected at meat plants. Their formation depends mainly on the interaction between three components: bacterial cells, adhesion surface and environment that surrounds the biofilm.

CHRISTEYNS uses up-to-date technology to quickly and easily detect the presence of biofilms. TBF® 300 is a ready-to-use product that enables the detection of all kind of biofilms in the food industry. In addition, the company offers a full range of chemicals to remove biofilms.

TBF 300, test de detección rápida de biofilms

TBF® 300, biofilm detection test.

Critical points in the processing chain

The presence of both spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms throughout the production process is continuous. On top of that, there are some critical points that can bring cross-contamination about from bird reception with the live bird cages, to the slaughter area, scalding, plucking and evisceration line. This is why analytical and systematic approaches should be considered to decrease the microbial load and, therefore, preventive and control strategies should be taken into account such as cleaning and disinfection procedures, chemicals suitable to remove the type of dirt present in each area, etc.

The kind of organic dirt is different in each part of the slaughterhouse. In the so-called ‘dirty stages’ of the process (unloading and shackling of the birds, stunning, scalding and plucking) feathers and faeces dirt is predominant. In the killing and bleeding area, the foremost dirt is blood, which has special requirements for removal. Once in the evisceration area, fat, proteins and organic remains from the gut appear, including microorganisms present in the intestines. In the case of hens being slaughtered, the fatty residues are particularly difficult to remove. Hooks from the chilling tunnel are remarkably hard to clean, not only because of their large number, but also because they are difficult to access.

Cleaning and disinfection procedures in poultry facilities

To eliminate the above-mentioned food hazards, the basis of a cleaning and disinfection procedure should include at least the following steps:

  1. Removal of the largest particles by means of effective water pressure and mopping. Following this step, walls, equipment and floors should look clean.
  2. Application of cleaning detergents or detergent-disinfectants intended for food establishments. These help to dislodge any remaining dirt such as particles of grease, and to keep them in suspension or emulsify them. Detergents are dissolved in water and should be used at the correct recommended manufacturer concentration and proper temperature. They can be applied by spraying, immersion or using foam-spraying equipment, although some surfaces with thick layers of stuck on dirt may require manually scrubbing with scouring pads or non-abrasive brushes.
  3. Next step consists of rinsing to eliminate any remaining dissolved or suspended dirt and leftover detergent.
  4. Disinfection by spraying all surfaces by spraying all surfaces at the recommended dosage and contact time.
  5. Finally, thorough rinsing of food contact surfaces.

 

CHRISTEYNS has a wide range of products, including alkaline chlorinated disinfectant detergents, alkaline detergents, acidic detergents, and disinfectants with different active ingredients. Specific products have also been developed to solve certain problems such as the detection and removal of biofilms.

Additionally, CHRISTEYNS has designed hygienic equipment for cleaning and disinfection hard to reach points and difficult to clean elements by helping the industry to standardise both procedures and results: ultrasonic hook hygiene system, automatic cleaning and disinfection of conveyor belts system, airborne disinfection systems, etc.

HPC, hgiene por cavitación

Figure 4. Hygiene through cavitation.

Another essential aspect for the poultry industry is to guarantee that all personnel accessing the production area meet the highest hygienic standards. To do this, it is necessary to install an adequate combination of the different personal hygiene equipment offered by CHRISTEYNS.

Moreover, we cannot lose sight of the importance of monitoring or surveillance of routine cleaning and disinfection. This will reveal that such operations have been performed correctly and that the facilities have been effectively cleaned (physically and bacteriologically) to prevent potential cross-contamination. The monitoring will identify bad practices when conducting these operations as well as potential sources of microbiological contamination. In addition, the monitoring results will be useful for a progressive improvement of hygiene and optimization of the operation costs.

Chicken is a staple food in our diet which makes the poultry industry extremely important in terms of food safety. Thus, achieving the highest level of hygiene in the industry will be paramount  to ensure poultry meat quality and safety, while encouraging a sustainable management of resources such as chemicals, water or energy.

Bibliography

Authors:

Juan Jose Canet: Technical Sales Manager of Food division at Christeyns Spain. Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Valencia and Degree in Economic Sciences from the UNED. More than 25 years of experience in the implementation of new producs, services and systems for hygiene in the food industry.

Carmen Donet: Export Manager at Christeyns Spain. Graduated in food technology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. She has participated in numerous European projects to improve food safety in the food industry.

Alma Milvaques: Agricultural engineer and graduate in food science and technology (Polytechnic University of Valencia). Laundry Product Application Manager at Christeyns Spain.

Authors

Joan Estornell

Marketing Manager Food Hygiene at Christeyns. Graduate in Information Sciences, Journalism. Master's Degree in Advertising Account Management. Strategic Innovation in Marketing and Advertising (UAB). Master in Digital Business. Digital Marketing (ESIC Business & Marketing School). Course in Food Industry Hygiene (Betelgeux).

Maria Sanz

PhD in Biological Sciences from the Universitat Politècnica de València. She has participated in numerous national and European projects to improve food safety in food industries. Head of R&D Microbiology at Christeyns Spain.

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