FAQs on cleaning and disinfection in the poultry industry

Guaranteeing perfect hygiene in the poultry industry is crucial, especially in slaughterhouses and poultry cutting rooms. To achieve this, it is important to apply control strategies for pathogenic microorganisms that guarantee that chicken meat is safe for the consumer, as well as to reduce the presence of microorganisms that reduce the useful life of the products.

In this post, we collect the key questions about cleaning and disinfection processes in the poultry industry.

In the cleaning and disinfection of areas in a poultry slaughterhouse: Is it better to use a single type of disinfectant, or to vary it according to the area or PCC?
The appearance of resistance to disinfectants is more difficult than that observed in antibiotics. However, it may be convenient to alternate biocidal active materials to avoid certain resistances or adaptation of microorganisms to residual doses of certain biocides. There are elements of the slaughterhouse with greater dirt where it may be convenient to use biocidal active substances with greater residual action or that are less inhibited in the presence of dirt. In other cases, what is interesting is to use disinfectants with low residual action and easy to rinse.

Disinfection Poultry Hygiene Christeyns

Both in the shed and in the slaughterhouse, how much drying time should be left between cleaning and disinfection?
The drying time depends on the concentration of the disinfectant and the surface that has been wetted. Ideally, when the disinfectant is applied, there should not be prior flooding, because if that is the case, what is being done is to dilute the disinfectant. For example, on a treadmill, in one complete turn, practically all the water has already been expelled and the disinfectant could already be applied.

Is it recommended to do a final rinse after disinfection?
There are many areas in which it is not necessary to carry out this rinse, it depends on the type of industries and the conditions in which you are going to work. The legislation says that you have to clarify those surfaces that are going to come into direct contact with food. It is necessary to avoid the application of water in the high areas once the low areas have been disinfected and rinsed, since it can drip from there and the lower parts can be recontaminated. Afterwards, special attention should be paid to drying. The elimination of humidity prevents the proliferation of those pathogens that have survived the hygiene tasks.

In the scalder, if we combine high temperatures with disinfectants, would the effect of the disinfectant be increased or inhibited?
There are biocidal active substances such as amines that do not produce foam and can be perfectly used under these conditions. The temperature is a favorable agent to achieve a greater optimization of the product. It is desirable, since the power of the disinfectant is combined with the effect of temperature. A treatment in a CIP at 80 °C with an amine is recommended. In other types of products, such as peracetic acid-based disinfectants, it is not advisable to exceed 40 or 45 °C. You have to think first of all about the type of active material used in scalders. Not all are worth. And you also have to take into account the type of scalder. Special attention must be paid to those with diffusers in the lower part because organic matter is usually introduced into them and when steam is injected through the lower part, all these particles are put back into the environment. These tubes must be cleaned very well and disinfected. It should be noted that in the plates that give off heat there are usually not many scales. In summary, you have to see how each scalder is doing and apply the most appropriate process according to their situation.

On farms as in poultry industries, how could pipes be controlled as a source of contamination?
You have to do a good cleaning and disinfection. Almost as if it were a CIP. An alkaline phase, another acid and a third for disinfection. It can also be viewed with cameras inside to see if there is dirt and analyze the final rinse water. Another recommended action is to carry out a biofilm control plan.

Cleaning the eviscerator is very complicated due to its design. Trying to perform a mechanical action is complex. What mechanical action alternative exists? Can you work with high pressure?
High pressure water should not be used to avoid spreading contamination. A good rubbing of the facilities and tools that come into contact with the carcass is recommended. The use of a more degreasing product and hot water is also indicated. However, it is recommended to apply a manual operation with high frequency, even if it is not every day.

Listeria monocytogenes-Poultry hygiene-Christeyns

Should frequent tests for Listeria spp be carried out in slaughterhouses and cutting rooms?
Yes. Frequent analyzes must be carried out since from these information is obtained on the microbial load that the birds present upon arrival from the farm. With the information derived from the analyzes, it is possible to find out how the internal hygiene and production protocols are working, detect some type of persistence and prevent Listeria spp. from reaching the next link in the chain.

What are the most sought after pathogenic microorganisms in drains?
In drains, the most sought after pathogen is Listeria spp. They are a reservoir for Listeria spp. The first rinse done in the room will go down the drain. If it is not cleaned correctly, using pressurized water in cleaning and disinfection tasks can generate splashes and aerosols, and redisseminate pathogens on the surfaces of the facility.

What is the main factor for the continued high incidence and spread of Campylobacter spp in birds?
In regulation 1495/2017 it seems clear that vertical transmission is minimal. During the first two weeks of the broiler it is very difficult to detect Campylobacter spp. The problem occurs in the third week of life because previously there is a maternal immunity that protects them. This disappears in the third week and cases of Campylobacter spp. appear. The origin may be on the surfaces because they have not been cleaned and disinfected well, or in the environment and in the vectors of the house and its surroundings. Campylobacterspp., once it enters the facilities, in four or five days it contaminates the entire batch of birds. The dispersal speed within a flock is much higher than that of Salmonella spp., because it is a pathogen that is highly adapted to birds.

How can Pseudomonas spp loads on surfaces and environments be eliminated? By applying a correct cleaning and disinfection protocol and with the indicated products, Pseudomonas
spp . loads can be eliminated at the usual concentrations . In case they are inserted in a biofilm, it is necessary to rub on it, as long as the biofilm is incipient; or apply a product, for example based on enzymes, if it is mature. Subsequently, it is necessary to proceed to disinfection.

To control Salmonella in poultry slaughterhouses, are there other strategies to be carried out in the previous phases of the production chain?
The presence of Salmonella in poultry carcasses, quartered and processed products is a problem that must cover the entire production chain, since when positive counts are obtained in the slaughterhouse, the actions to be taken are limited. Specific cleaning and disinfection strategies can be implemented, such as the use of products against biofilms, disinfection of surfaces by air, extreme hygiene in all elements (hooks, scalder, pluckers, erc), this will minimize and reduce the transfer, but does not guarantee its absence. For this reason, the arrival ofSalmonella with live birds and cages, implementing biosecurity measures on farms and hatcheries, including in feed production: cleaning and disinfection, access control, pest control, avoiding vertical transmission, use of feed additives, water treatment , disinfection of living cages, etc.

Biofilms-Poultry hygiene_Christeyns

The removal of biofilms is part of the disinfection strategy. What disinfectants and at what dose are the most appropriate, taking into account the material of the surfaces? Can glutaraldehyde be used?
The elimination of biofilms can be achieved using different products. Enzymatic or chemical-based products can be used. In any case, this process will be completed with a second disinfection phase in which products based on: peracetic acid, quaternary ammoniums, glutaraldehyde can be used, all of them products defended in BPR for the disinfection of surfaces. A three-step process is recommended for the safe removal of biofilms, with a good pre-alkaline cleaning and treatment against biofilm removal.

The usual recommended doses are: alkaline products are usually between 5-10% and the alkaline pH is above 12. Chlorine concentration eliminates proteins, has a biocide effect, at 1%. In areas that are difficult to clean, it is recommended to carry out a biofilm detection test with the TBF 300 product. Chlorinated ones are used in plastics, as a bleaching effect. For the rest of the surfaces they are not highly recommended due to their oxidizing power.

For the reduction and elimination of biofilms, could natural compounds and terpenoids be an effective alternative or complement to synthetic disinfectants?
There is research that indicates so. There are natural compounds such as terpenoids, polyphenols, organic acids and essential oils, whose compounds inhibit the formation of biofilms. But when the biofilm is already mature, it is necessary to apply mechanical energy, which breaks up the matrix, and appropriate products for its removal.

Can communication between bacteria in a biofilm be blocked?
Yes. There are some published articles that recognize that certain antagonist molecules of the autoinducers used by bacteria in quorum sensing can be used to neutralize such communication. If we inhibit quorum sensing, communication between bacteria is broken and we inhibit the formation of biofilms. The problem is that quorum sensing is going to be different depending on the bacteria that nest in the biofilm, which makes it necessary to know the type of biofilm, type of autoinductors, as well as the type of molecules that can be antagonists to interfere with this communication.

What is the use of bacteriophages and probiotics in disinfection on farms?
Bacteriophages are very specific. A cocktail of them would have to be used to achieve its effectiveness, although previously a phagogram should be available to see if it is sensitive or not. However, they cannot be used repeatedly to prevent the bacterium from becoming resistant to that particular phage. It is true that with the use of these, resistance or the appearance of properties that the bacteria did not have before can be generated. They should be used as a last defense after other strategies. We must try to eradicate these problems with other tools such as: biosecurity, cleaning, disinfection, applying additives to the animals so that they are not carriers of diseases.

Regarding the use of lactic flora, it is true that there are some products that are used for disinfection based on this type of microorganism. Probiotics are applied to surfaces to colonize and implement competitive exclusion. They colonize the entire environment and displace pathogens that are in the environment. First it is disinfected and then it is colonized with the desired microorganisms.

What relevant information can we obtain from metagenomic analyzes in the poultry industry?
Metagenomics is a tool that in the near future will replace traditional microbiology; it is the microbiology of the future. The information that is obtained is very extensive, although it is necessary to know how to interpret it. The main advantage of metagenomics is that it is capable of detecting all bacterial species present in an environmental sample.

In the European Union, the disinfection of chicken carcasses with disinfectant products is not allowed, but could chlorine dioxide be used in chillers and refrigerated pre-chillers?
In the EU, ClO2 could be used if it is at the dose in which the water is made drinkable. If it is in concentrations higher than what is permitted by law, it is prohibited.

To what extent is the training of operators in R&D tasks and food handlers important?
The training of R&D operators is essential, they must know the importance of their work on the quality of the final product, know the products and protocols. In addition, it is important that they receive information about critical points in the facility, where biofilms can form and be niches for Listeria . In these areas, daily manual scrubbing will be important, as well as the use of specific protocols.

For their part, food handlers must be aware of their influence on the prevention of cross-contamination and on their personal hygiene, since there are certain food poisonings that can be attributed, in many cases, to the handlers themselves, such as that caused by Staphylococcus aureus . .

To what extent is environmental disinfection important?
More than environmental disinfection, one could speak of disinfection of surfaces and environments by air. Since in the environment of a room if it remains closed for a while the number of microorganisms will be reduced, due to sedimentation processes. The important thing with this type of disinfection is to reach elements of the installation that are not usually disinfected by the traditional spray system: hidden areas, elevated elements (eg evaporators). These points can be niches for pathogenic microorganisms and biofilms, from there by condensation, air currents, etc., reaching elements in direct contact with food or the products that are made.

For this type of disinfection, nebulizers with biocides formulated with quaternary ammoniums, tertiary amines, hydrogen peroxide, glutaraldehydes, etc. can be used.

When the increase in environmental humidity is not desirable, for example, in feed silos, packaging rooms, etc., fumigant products with active materials such as glycolic acid can be used. These are pre-dosed cans for determined volumes.


Team Betelgeux


Company specialised in food safety based in Spain, Chile and Portugal. With more than 25 years of experience, it offers innovative and effective solutions to the specific hygiene problems of the food industries, as well as livestock farms, through a wide range of products, equipment and services designed for proper cleaning and disinfection. of the facilities.


David Benson

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