With increasing demand for broiler meat, meat is now often displayed in butcheries without proper preservation measures such as freezing.
This presents a major public health risk.
Foodborne diseases usually arise when the causative organism, initially present in low numbers, is allowed to multiply on the chicken carcass during production, distribution, preparation or storage.
Primarily, poultry products are normally contaminated by paratyphoid serotypes of Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni bacteria that cause illnesses.
Salmonella bacteria associated with poultry usually causes intestinal infection in humans, accompanied by acute diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.
Occasionally, it may cause blood stream infections and death. Symptoms occur six to 72 hours after eating contaminated food.
Campylobacteriosis demonstrated clinically in the disease begins as a flu-like syndrome with muscle aches, fever, abdominal pain and malaise followed by a watery, explosive diarrhoea with abdominal cramping.
Poultry meat has an important direct and indirect role in the transmission of salmonella and campylobacter. The nature of the slaughter process enables more extensive faecal contamination.
If the chicken is colonised with campylobacter and contamination of the carcass occurs, then these organisms will be distributed over the carcass surface and survive under the moist, cool storage conditions through to retail.
Handling, preparation and consumption of broiler meat may account for 20 to 30 per cent of human cases of campylobacteriosis, while 50 to 80 per cent may be attributed to the chicken reservoir as a whole (broilers as well as laying hens).
Poultry becomes infected with salmonella in three main ways: by direct contact with clinically ill or symptomless birds, by the consumption of contaminated feeds or water and through the environment.
The hatchery may be the most important source of Salmonella in broilers and this is an important point in the prevention of colonisation or significant reduction of the bacteria from chickens during production.
Maintain the cold chain by ensuring limited periods outside temperature control during preparation, transport, storage, display and service of food. In the farm-to-table process, post-processing food handling is very important in the reduction of foodborne illnesses.
Since salmonellae multiply very slowly at 10 degrees Celsius, and not at all at 6 to 7 degrees Celsius, growth on carcasses should be entirely prevented by prompt and efficient chilling. Inadequate cooking can also result in foodborne illnesses.
Proper cooking should destroy the micro-organisms present on the chicken carcass. Salmonella is sensitive to heat. The organisms are killed at temperatures of 70 degrees Celsius or above.
Campylobacter bacteria are extremely fragile and are easily destroyed by thorough cooking.
The bacteria are present only on the surface of the chicken carcass, which underpins the effectiveness of proper cooking temperatures.
Caution should be taken to avoid cross-contamination that may occur between raw carcass and other foods such as vegetable salads consumed without further heat processing.
Caroline is a member of the Dairy Team, Egerton University.