Poultry meat production in Colombia has significant growth potential to fulfill national demands and to become an important global exporter. Entering export markets requires compliance with international food safety standards and the support of a rigorous national inspection system. To support the development of national standards, information about the microbiological profiles of poultry operations is needed, and no official microbiological baseline is currently available. A total of 480 chicken carcass rinses and 64 fecal samples were collected at different process sites from three commercial poultry processing establishments located in different regions of Colombia. Samples were analyzed to determine the prevalence of Salmonella and the levels of Escherichia coli in chicken rinse. Six steps were selected for sampling in the slaughter, evisceration, and chilling processes. The overall Salmonella prevalence after water immersion chilling at the three establishments was 12.5% (73 of 584 samples). E. coli levels were 1.2 to 2.2 log CFU/mL (mean, 1.65 log CFU/mL) after the chilling process. Significant differences (P < 0.05) were found for E. coli levels among the processing sites at the three establishments; however, there were no significant differences in the distribution of Salmonella-positive samples through the sites at each plant. These results can be used as reference data for microorganisms in chicken meat facilities in Colombia and will help the poultry industry and regulators in the design of new prevention programs and food safety management systems.
Keywords: Colombia; Escherichia coli; Microbial profile; Poultry; Salmonella.