The present study aimed to evaluate the efficiency of the irradiation process in the control of Campylobacter spp. in chilled chicken heart samples, since this microorganism is related to the contamination of meat and chicken giblets and is responsible for enteritis in humans. The methodology and standards recommended by RDC no. 12 (Brazil, 2001) were applied for the bacteriological analyses. The chilled chicken heart samples were acquired in an industry that undergoes sanitary inspection, located in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Samples were divided into two groups, non-contaminated (NC - originally from the industrial plant) and contaminated (CAMPY– contaminated with C. jejuni ATCC 33291/CCAMP/FIOCRUZ 00262 strains by CCAMP/LABZOO/IOC/FIOCRUZ), subsequently separated into four groups: NC and CAMPY control groups and samples irradiated at 1.5, 3.0 and 4.5 kGy. The eight subgroups were analyzed for the presence of Campylobacter sp. No statistically significant difference was observed between the four groups namely the non-irradiated controls and the 1.5, 3.0 and 4.5 kGy irradiated samples (p> 0.05). Elimination of Campylobacter sp. was observed, with no bacterial growth in any of the irradiated, non-contaminated (CN) and infected (CAMPY) samples. Thus, the efficiency of the Co60 irradiation process of chilled chicken heart for the elimination of the surveyed microorganisms was proven. The lowest dose applied was sufficient to eliminate the enteric pathogen which is of great significance in a public health point of view. However, it should be noted that the Brazil legislation determining the microbiological standards for food does not include a microbiological standard for Campylobacter sp. This means that any amount of this enteric pathogen may bring public health risks.
Key words: Food irradiation; chicken heart; Campylobacter sp.; Foodborne illness; public health.
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