Modern food processing methods adopted by the poultry industry are insufficient to produce Ready-To-Cook (RTC) products free of Salmonella infection, according to a study done by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). The study, conducted to screen branded RTC poultry products from Mumbai for the presence of the bacteria that causes food poisoning in humans, found the prevalence of Salmonella was higher (51 per cent) in chilled RTC poultry products compared to frozen RTC products (5 per cent).
Forty-eight chilled and 39 frozen RTC poultry samples of four different brands were obtained from various supermarkets and departmental stores in Mumbai as part of the study. The frozen RTC samples of one brand were free of Salmonella. S. Typhimurium (75.2 per cent) was the most prevalent serovar, followed by S. Enteritidis (23 per cent) and S. Weltevreden (1.7 per cent).
It was found that minimally processed fresh, chilled RTC poultry products and processed, frozen RTC poultry samples were contaminated with S. Typhimurium, S. Enteritidis and S. Weltevreden serovars, which is due to the poor processing practices followed by the poultry industry.
Poultry meat, eggs and animal-based food are important sources of Salmonella infection in humans. Salmonella is often transmitted to humans through the food chain, with over 95 per cent of salmonellosis cases attributed to consumption of undercooked or mishandled pork, poultry and eggs. Fresh poultry slaughtered in local shops is generally preferred by consumers in India. However, due to changes in lifestyle and modernisation, fresh chilled and frozen RTC poultry products have become readily available in retail high-end shops and supermarkets in major cities.