The incidence of Staphylococcus aureus on turkeys sampled at various stages of processing and further-processing was determined on four occasions at each of three different processing plants. For freshly-slaughtered birds, counts from neck skin varied from plant to plant over the range < 102 to > 105/g but in all cases the corresponding counts obtained from carcasses sampled after chilling rarely exceeded 103/g and the same was true for samples of mechanically recovered meat (MRM), the final raw product examined.
Despite the limited susceptibility of isolates from the different factories to typing by means of either standard human or poultry bacteriophages (55–94% untypable), evidence was obtained with the aid of biotyping for the presence of both human and animal-derived strains. However, some biotypes isolated from MRM were not detected at earlier stages of processing.
At one processing plant, an ‘indigenous’ type of S. aureus was clearly demonstrated. It occurred in high numbers in the defeathering machines (up to 105/swab), was found on carcasses at all subsequent stages of processing over the survey period and was shown to survive routine cleaning and disinfection procedures. Isolates of this type produced unusually large amounts of extracellular ‘slime’ in artificial culture.
Two of the three processing plants yielded isolates which were enterotoxigenic. Of 55 strains from Plant 1, 60% produced enterotoxin C and all were of the ‘indigenous’ type. In the case of Plant 2, only two type D-and one type F-producing strain were found.