- Ingredients manufacturer Kemin Industries signed an exclusive agreement with Pacific GeneTech to commercialize a poultry salmonella vaccine that addresses multiple strains of the bacteria, according to a release. The vaccines can be administered orally or by injection in both live and inactivated forms.
- The partnership will focus on registering the vaccine first in the European Union and then the U.S. Following these markets, Kemin will expand the vaccine's availability in Southeast Asia and Africa. The registration process is already underway.
- The University of Arkansas' Poultry Health Laboratory, with support from USDA and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, originally developed the vaccine now under the portfolio of Pacific GeneTech.
If manufacturers have access to a multi-strain salmonella vaccine to immunize poultry processed for consumption, it could mark the start of an important change for the food and beverage industry.
The USDA identified salmonella as the leading cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the U.S., causing about 1.2 million illnesses annually. Although salmonella is transferrable through a range of commercially manufactured products, poultry is a particularly well-known carrier of this infection.
There is no single strain of salmonella that causes a foodborne illness, but the most common strain is salmonella enteritidis. The rate of illness for this bacteria hasn't dropped in more than 10 years, researchers from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service noted. In fact, salmonella, cyclospora and campylobacter infections were up in 2018 compared to previous years, but the jump might be partly due to the wider use of culture-independent diagnostic tests, according to new research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This new vaccine protects against several strains of the bacteria, including the enteritidis strain. Preventing the formation of additional strains will also be beneficial to the poultry industry. Marler Clark, a Seattle-based food safety law firm, petitioned the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to ban 31 salmonella strains found on meat and poultry.
Even without the additional regulations that limit the permissible strains of salmonella in poultry, having a vaccine to provide flock immunity would be welcomed by poultry farmers, since traditional preventative methods of antibiotic-supplemented feed have fallen out of favor with consumers who are seeking a free-from option in their meat. Consumers aren't the only ones discouraging the use of antibiotics. The European Union, the initial market where Kemin is looking to register the vaccine, severely restricts the use of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are not always effective. KatieRose McCullough, director of scientific and regulatory affairs for the North American Meat Institute, told The Washington Post salmonella is "impossible" to completely remove because it can be part of an animal's body. Vaccines eradicate the bacterium from ever forming.
However, a vaccine will not cure all ills. Foodborne illness does not always result from the animal itself. Often, it is caused by the failure of consumers to prepare food in a hygienic manner or is transferred by the unwashed hands of an infected food handler or unclean machinery. Nevertheless, a vaccine presents another layer of safety.
The European Union, which has banned the use of medicine to eradicate coccidial parasites in poultry but permits vaccinations, has found the vaccine to be an “effective and convenient method” to manage the disease, according to The Poultry Site. Numerous other vaccines exist for poultry, including ones to prevent the retrovirus associated diseases avian flu and fowl pox. Vaccines that combat Mycoplasma gallisepticum, a bacteria that causes respiratory disease in poultry, have succeeded in making the illness rare in countries that routinely inoculate their birds.
If this salmonella vaccine is introduced into poultry flocks with success, it has the opportunity to open the door to future proactive treatments for pathogens that cause food poisoning. An effective treatment that reduces the likelihood of foodborne pathogens ending up on consumers' plates and also provides a solution other than antibiotics will likely be warmly received by producers, governments and consumers.