Home   News

America's Chicken Supply Chain is Vulnerable to Salmonella. Researchers Think They Have a Fix

America's Chicken Supply Chain is Vulnerable to Salmonella. Researchers Think They Have a Fix

By Eric Schmid

A research team from multiple universities is developing technology that can detect salmonella contamination in a matter of minutes. They aim to take the results from sensors and pair them with other data to strengthen the safety and resilience of the supply of chicken.

Visit any grocery store and you can expect that the produce, meat and other products that line the shelves are not contaminated.

But sometimes that’s not the case.

Each year the federal government launches dozens of investigations into foodborne disease outbreaks traced to germs like salmonella, listeria, E. coli and others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people fall ill annually as a result.

And of those who get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

Salmonella is one of the top germs that causes these ailments, and it’s a pathogen often associated with chicken and eggs. A research team led by the University of Missouri is responding by developing ways to more quickly detect the pathogen in the entire chicken supply chain. (The University of Missouri-St. Louis, Lincoln University, Auburn University and the University of Notre Dame also are involved in the research.)

“We just want to make a safe food supply for everyone,” said Kate Trout, one of the project’s principal investigators at the University of Missouri. “(Including) rural communities, low income communities, which we now have higher rates of salmonella infections.”

Trout explained the research aims to take the results from sensors that rapidly detect small amounts of salmonella and pair them with data on food production, animal health, population health and other geospatial data.

That lines up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's goals for mitigating salmonella in the food supply, she added.

Saving resources and time

While the chicken supply chain is relatively safe with few notices of contamination, experts say the current testing process often takes several days.

“People are constantly looking for better ways to sample, better ways to test and get faster results,” said Jim Dickson, a professor in Iowa State University’s animal science department. “The quicker a processor gets results, the quicker they can react to them.”

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service tests for the bacteria, and major poultry processors also typically test their chicken every day too, he said. But testing laboratories are often off-site, and preparing a sample before it can be tested can take a day or two.

“Realistically, in most cases we’re talking about three days from the time of the sample to the time of the result,”Dickson said. “By the time they get results back that product is gone. It’s already been shipped.”

The team’s research, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator, addresses the issue of timing by developing new portable and easy-to-use sensors that can quickly detect small amounts of contamination.

“One that allows us to do testing basically within one hour,” said Lead Principal Investigator Mahmoud Almarsi. “The second one, the optical one, we are testing within 10 minutes and probably even lower than 10 minutes.”

Almarsi, a professor in Mizzou’s electrical engineering and computer science department, added they’re also creating a third sensor that will be able to detect the specific kind of salmonella present in a sample.

“There are maybe 2,500 different types of salmonella,” Almarsi said. “But not all of them are in poultry.”

This level of granularity would go further than the current industry standard, which only detects salmonella in general, said Kantha Channaiah, an assistant professor of food science at Mizzou.


Click here to see more...

Trending Video



Chicken litter can be an excellent fertilizer! It makes good use of something you may already have on your farm. You can use it yourself or make extra cash selling it to others. It works so well as a fertilizer because it contains the three nutrients that are included in most conventional fertilizers: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

If chicken litter makes such a great fertilizer, why are some states banning its use? Well, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Check out this video to learn about the major risk you should consider before using litter as a fertilizer, and some methods to mitigate this risk.

So, what's the downside of using chicken litter as fertilizer? Litter is super rich in nutrients. When it rains, excess nutrients, which may be abundant, run off of the farms on which they are placed or stored.

Where do they go? Into nearby bodies of water. When marine environments face an excess of nutrients from runoff, eutrophication occurs. This means that marine plant life becomes overgrown and then dies, a process that takes a lot of dissolved oxygen, or D.O., out of the water. So much, in fact, that fish and other marine animals die due to lack of D.O. This can throw off entire ecosystems and impact the quality of our drinking water.

All this just because of some nutrient runoff from chicken litter fertilizer? Really? …Really. But this doesn't mean you can never use litter as fertilizer- It just means that you have to be smart about it.

We have some tips on how to prevent fertilizer runoff during storage. Keep the litter covered. Sheds or stackhouses are great methods for this, but plastic sheeting can also be used. Covering litter prevents it from losing too much of its nitrogen value. Make sure drainage does not come into contact with the storage pile. Add a bottom liner under the storage pile to prevent leaching. This is especially important to people whose properties are on wells.

When using litter as fertilizer, follow a few general guidelines when planning your fertilization program: Apply fertilizers in the proper amount for your area and crop type Apply at the right time of year and with the right method for your farm Use conservation drainage practices Ensure year-round ground cover Plant field buffers Manage livestock access to streams