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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



European consumers want food that is free from chemical and biological contaminants. They also want food production systems that respect animal welfare and the environment. This has resulted in regulations banning the use of feed-based antibiotics to control intestinal microflora in poultry - as these could cause drug resistance in microbes that afflict humans - and changes of food production systems leading to the modification of poultry feeding (e.g. ban of in-feed antibiotics and 100%-vegetal diets) and rearing conditions (e.g. out-door breeding). These significant changes have resulted in an increased incidence of digestive disorders in poultry flocks due to imbalances in bacterial microflora, creating risks of degraded hygienic quality of products meant for human consumption.

Specific Targeted Research Project (STREP) POULTRYFLORGUT concentrates the efforts of 15 partners from ten European countries to optimise poultry production and to meet consumer concerns for animal welfare, the environment and public health. In particular, it aims to monitor the effects on poultry and its products of the new European food regulations and changes in food production systems, and to define ways of eliminating unintentional negative effects.


Poultry carry human enteric pathogens, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, in their intestinal tracts, often without exhibiting clinical signs. Scientific and agro-food experts have recently noted increased prevalence of these and less common contaminants in flocks, possibly stemming from regulatory and other changes affecting feeding, raising techniques or processing and distribution. However, data is scarce on the effects of these changes, and knowledge of the ecology of poultry intestinal flora is very poor, due to a lack of accurate methodology.

The three-year POULTRYFLORGUT project aims at providing a strong factual basis for the optimisation of the hygienic quality of the poultry products meant for human consumption, and addressing the economic assessment of changes in poultry practice and effect of organisational arrangements in the poultry food chain. It will focus on the control of the intestinal flora of the broilers and laying hens, including the foodborne pathogens. The approach to study and reduce microbial risks associated with consumption of poultry products (eggs, meat) concerns the different steps of poultry products production from farm to fork.

Developing methodologies using novel molecular techniques will allow the global and integrative study of the intestinal flora of poultry: PCR-SSCP (Polymerase Chain Reaction - Single Strand Conformation Polymorphism), DGGE (Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis), FISH (Hybridation in situ par fluorescence), and T-RFLP (Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism). It will also help to define and validate intestinal health or pathological microbiological criteria in poultry, to study the interaction between the intestinal flora and food-borne pathogens and, consequently, to improve the characterisation of the digestive disorders.


POULTRYFLORGUT will establish a European molecular database on known and emerging food-borne pathogenic strains/species in poultry production, which will aid in-depth evaluation of human exposure to foodborne pathogens. A European database on molecular intestinal flora fingerprints collected in specific raising conditions will help in evaluating 'healthy' intestinal flora in poultry flocks.

A website will provide advice on products improving bacteriological safety while maintaining the profitability of the poultry industry, based on the estimation of the socio economic consequences due to the changes occurring in poultry production.

List of Partners

  • Agence Franšaise de SÚcuritÚ Sanitaire des Aliments (France)
  • UniversitÓ di Bologna (Italy)
  • Institute of Immunology of Vilnius University (Lithuania)
  • Institut Technique de l'Aviculture (France)
  • The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (Denmark)
  • Institut de Recerca I Tecnologia Agroalimentaries (Spain)
  • Institut National de Recherche Agronomique (France)
  • University for Veterinary Medicine of Vienna (Austria)
  • Tierńrztliche Hochschule Hannover (Germany)
  • University of Veterinary and Pharmacological Sciences of Brno (Czech Republic)
  • Animal Sciences Group, Wageningen UR (The Netherlands)
  • Veterinary Laboratory Agency (UK)
  • University of Perugia (Italy)
  • Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research (Denmark)
  • Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (Spain)
Full title:
Control of the intestinal flora in poultry for ensuring product safety for human consumers
Contract n░:
Project co-ordinator:
Christine Burel, Agence Franšaise de SÚcuritÚ Sanitaire des Aliments,
EC Scientific Officer:
Jean-Charles Cavitte,
EU contribution:
€ 2.3M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top