Science News

Beating The Cluck Out of Food Poisoning

Sun, 5th Mar 2006

Part of the show Recycling, Water Use and Problem Plastic

Researchers at the University of Arkansas are administering probiotic "good bacteria" - similar to the yoghurts on sale in the health food store - to chickens in a bid to cut food poisoning due to bugs like salmonella and campylobacter. Every year in the UK at least 10 million unfortunate victims end up locked to a loo seat thanks to something they ate, and poultry is a common culprit. That's because chickens and other birds often carry pathogenic bacteria which, if the meat is not carefully prepared, can infect the consumer. To combact the problem researcher Billy Hargis is giving his birds a dose of probiotics. The idea is that the good bacteria will compete for nutrients and resources, pushing out the harmful gut pathogens. To isolate them in the first place the team collect the natural bacterial flora from healthy chickens, confirm that the bugs they have isolated can compete effectively against the pathogen, grow them up and then administer them to chicks in their feed and water. Also adding prebiotics - substances which encourage the growth of the good bacteria - to the diet helps to maintain a thriving intestinal population. At the moment the researchers are currently working to achieve the perfect cocktail of good bacteria, but the fruits of their labours have now been embraced by a number of commercial poultry farmers eager to cut the levels of food poisoning bacteria in their produce.


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