Yeast is good for beer and bread--and it might even be good for chickens or turkeys. That's because a special yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii, may help make poultry foods even safer for people to eat.
It's no secret that Campylobacter and Salmonella are the main foodborne pathogens likely to contaminate live poultry. A special problem: These pathogens skyrocket when birds are off feed and in the transport trucks going to slaughter. That means the birds often arrive at the processing plant with higher bacterial counts than when they left the farm.
Food technologist J. Eric Line, who is in the Agricultural Research Service Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit at Athens, Georgia, found that feeding chickens the S. boulardii yeast a couple of days before transport helped. He exposed flocks of poultry to various strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter, then put them through a simulated transport. Salmonella counts increased about fivefold in untreated control birds during transport. Chickens given the yeast had no increase in Salmonella.
Results from a second experiment showed untreated birds increased their Salmonella loads from 53 to 67 percent during transport. With yeast, the birds' Salmonella levels decreased 40 percent. While some Campylobacter levels did go down, the treatment was not as effective for this pathogen.
Overall, the S. boulardii yeast's food safety benefits could be important for farmers and plant managers alike, since federal law requires them to identify key contamination points and take steps to reduce risk--including during transport.
"This yeast is generally recognized as safe for people and animals," says Line. "We're pleased that results show the reduction of Salmonella, because that's something American consumers want--poultry that is Salmonella-free from farm to table."
Line adds that there is still much research to be done on this treatment. First, farmers won't use it, he says, unless they can do so economically. That means refining the treatment with farmers' operating budgets in mind.
But the treatment--for which Line has filed a patent--would be one part of a complete food safety protocol. He cautioned that no single thing will work as a "magic bullet" to reduce Salmonella in poultry.--ByJill Lee, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
J.Eric Line is in the USDA-ARS Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit, Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center, 950 College Station Rd., Athens, GA 30605-2720; phone (706) 546-3522, fax (706) 546-3771.
"Yeast May Inhibit Salmonella" was published in the December 1998 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.