Guidance

Salmonella: get your fattening turkeys tested

Find out when and how to take samples for testing, and what happens if one of your flocks tests positive.

You must take samples for analysis and send them to a laboratory for testing if you keep more than 500 fattening turkeys (birds you keep to produce meat for human consumption) over a calendar year. This is part of the national control programme (NCP) for salmonella, which aims to control salmonella in poultry flocks across the EU.

You must sample each of your flocks. A flock is a group of birds that shares the same house or range area. If you’re not sure if your birds are in one or more flocks, you can ask for advice from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in England, Scotland or Wales, or the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland.

If you farm in England, Scotland and Wales you don’t have to sample your flocks if you are granted an exemption. You’ll get an exemption from APHA if you if you fatten 500 to 10,000 turkeys per calendar year and you only sell produce locally. ‘Selling locally’ means that you sell directly to consumers at farmers markets or to local retailers in any of the following:

  • the county where your holding is
  • the counties next to your holding’s county
  • anywhere up to 30 miles from the borders of your holding’s county

The rules on only selling locally are lifted in the fortnights leading up to Easter and Christmas.

Get an exemption from testing

You may be able to get an exemption from testing. Contact your local APHA office. They’ll tell you if you’re eligible to apply for an exemption and what you need to do. No exemption is available in Northern Ireland.

When you don’t have to test a flock

You don’t have to test a flock if you either:

  • farm fewer than 500 birds
  • only produce birds for private use (not for sale)
  • only sell direct to consumers through farm gate sales or to local retailers that only supply consumers

In England, Scotland or Wales if you farm between 500 and 10,000 turkeys and only supply locally you can apply to your local AHPA office for an annual exemption

Register your flocks before you get them tested

You must register each premises where you keep your flocks on one of the following:

When you must not sample

Avoid taking samples during or shortly after giving your turkeys antimicrobials (antibiotics) that affect salmonella. APHA or DARD could declare your flock positive for salmonella if:

  • inspectors see from the flock medicine book that you’ve given antibiotics
  • the laboratory suspects that there may be disinfectant and antibiotics in your samples

Contact one of the following for guidance on when to test after giving antibiotics:

  • your vet (who will have prescribed the antibiotics)
  • APHA if you farm in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DARD if you farm in Northern Ireland

Don’t collect samples unless you’re sure they’ll arrive at the laboratory and it can begin testing them within 96 hours (4 days) of sampling. Before you collect samples, you should check if your chosen laboratory can handle samples sent to them on a Thursday or a Friday. You’ll have to collect another set of samples if the laboratory is delayed in the post or they can’t start the tests within 96 hours.

If the samples are not tested within 96 hours (4 days) you’ll have to take another set of samples.

Paying for sampling equipment and tests

You need to buy your own sampling equipment. Contact one of the following to find out where:

  • your vet
  • the government-approved laboratory you plan to send samples to
  • your nearest APHA office in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DARD in Northern Ireland

You’ll also have to pay the laboratory charges for salmonella testing for your own samples and for routinely collected official samples. Contact DARD for details of fees in Northern Ireland.

Official sampling at your premises

In Northern Ireland, officials from DARD take samples. In England, Scotland and Wales, an APHA officer, an authorised vet or a SAI Global auditor (if your flock is in the Quality British Turkeys assurance scheme) take samples.

They will all take samples once a year from at least one flock on 10% of all fattening holdings with capacity for 500 or more turkeys.

Officials from DARD or APHA may also take samples in other situations:

  • from all your flocks if one of them tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium
  • from all your flocks after one of your previous crop of flocks tested positive
  • after a positive test for Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium at a hatchery has been traced forward to a flock on your holding from a hatchery
  • from flocks where there’s no evidence of testing
  • if they think a test result is inaccurate
  • whenever APHA or DARD thinks it’s necessary

When to take samples from your fattening flocks

If your birds will be slaughtered at less than 101 days of age, then you must collect samples in the 3 weeks before slaughter unless they are organic turkeys.

If your birds will be slaughtered at more than 100 days of age (or are younger but are organic turkeys), then you must collect samples in the 6 weeks before slaughter.

You must send the result of these tests with the birds when you send them to slaughter, so allow enough time to get the results back from the laboratory when you’re planning when to collect your samples.

What kinds of sample you need to provide

You can provide samples from your flock in any of the following ways:

  • 2 pairs of boot swabs
  • one pair of boot swabs and 100g dust sample, or one hand-held dust swab
  • one or more hand-held faecal swabs, but only if you can’t use boot swabs and you have fewer than 100 turkeys at the time of sampling

How to sample your flock

You’ll need to sample your flock in different ways depending on whether you’re taking a:

  • boot swab sample
  • dust sample
  • faecal swab

How to take a boot swab sample

You should use:

  • disposable plastic overboots
  • 2 pairs of boot swabs - these must be absorbent enough to soak up moisture, and you can also use tubegauze ‘socks’ or premoistened commercial swabs
  • tap water or bottled still water for moistening boot swabs - never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterial agents or acids
  • disposable plastic gloves
  • sealable bags or sample pots
  • packaging for sending your sample bags or pots to the laboratory

Prepare to take samples

Take samples in the existing litter - don’t put new bedding down.

You should gather all the equipment you’re going to need before you go into the house, to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling. You should take special care to avoid contamination if you keep other animals (especially pigs or cattle) on your premises.

To prevent disinfectant or sanitiser affecting your sample, you should:

  • not use hand sanitiser on your plastic gloves
  • only put on your plastic overboots after you’ve walked through disinfectant

If you wear plastic overboots when you walk through disinfectant, you should put on a another pair afterwards to protect the boot swabs from the disinfectant.

Sampling

You should sample only the inside of the house, even if you have free-range turkeys. You should avoid sampling the areas just inside doors and pop holes, as they may have been contaminated by material from outdoors.

You should take one or 2 pairs of boot swabs from each flock, depending on which combination of samples you plan to send. Moisten the boot swabs before you take samples. Pour the water inside them or shake the boot swabs in a container of water.

If you’re only collecting boot swab samples, divide the house into 2 equal parts for sampling, and walk around in one pair of boot swabs in each part. If you’re using one pair of boot swabs and a hand-held dust swab, walk around the whole house in that pair of boot swabs. You should take at least 100 steps in each pair of boot swabs, making sure that you have swabbed every part of the house. Drag your feet on the floor to pick up as much material you can. If the house is divided into several pens, spend more time in the larger pens and less in the smaller pens.

When you’ve finished sampling, carefully take off the boot swabs and turn them inside out so that all the faeces you’ve collected stays on them. Package them together to send to the laboratory.

How to take a dust sample

You should collect the plastic gloves, plastic bags and packaging that you’ll need before you go into the house. This is to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling.

  1. Put on new plastic gloves.
  2. Fully open out the hand-held dust swab. The total area of the swab must be at least 900 square centimetres (sq cm).
  3. Moisten the dust swab using tap water or bottled still water (never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterial agents or acids).
  4. Swab at least 20 different places around the house including ledges, partitions, ventilation grills and anywhere else dust has settled.
  5. Make sure that both sides of the swab are completely covered with dust.
  6. Don’t take samples from feeding systems.
  7. Package the swab and dust into a sealable bag or pot to send to the laboratory.

How to take faecal swabs

You should collect the plastic gloves, plastic bags and packaging that you’ll need before you go into the house. This is to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling.

  1. Put on new plastic gloves.
  2. Fully open out the hand-held dust swab. The total area of the swab must be at least 900sq cm.
  3. Moisten the swab using tap water or bottled still water (never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterial agents or acids)
  4. Rub the swab over several different areas where faeces has built up. You should thoroughly swab the pen area and any perches.
  5. Make sure that both sides of the swab are completely covered in faeces.

Label samples

On each sample submission form you must include:

  • the date you took the sample
  • your registration number or your County Parish Holding (CPH) number or DARD flock number
  • the identification of the flock - house name or number and the month and year you moved the flock into that house
  • the name and address of the flock’s holding
  • the age of the flock
  • the number of birds in the flock
  • the contact details of the person sending the sample

Send samples to a laboratory

You should send your samples on the day you collect them.

If you can’t send your samples on the day you collect them, you should refrigerate them at 2 to 8°C. You must not freeze samples. You should make sure the testing laboratory receives your samples within 48 hours of collection and that they can test them within 96 hours. If not you’ll have to take new samples.

You must send your salmonella NCP samples to a UK approved laboratory. Find laboratories approved by:

Get your test results

The laboratory usually sends the results to:

  • the person who sent the sample
  • the person the sampled flock is registered to
  • APHA or DARD if the sample tests positive for salmonella

If your samples test positive for salmonella

You must declare in the Food Chain Information (FCI) documents accompanying the batch to slaughter:

  • the NCP Salmonella test result, negative or positive
  • the date the sample was taken from the flock

This is a legal requirement and the birds may not be slaughtered if this information is not provided.

APHA or DARD will take samples from every other flock on your holding to check for Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium if your samples test positive for salmonella. You’ll have to clean and disinfect the positive shed after you’ve sent the birds to slaughter.

APHA or DARD will also return to take samples from your next crop of birds. If these tests are positive for Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium, APHA or DARD will place your holding under a movement restriction. This means that you’ll only be allowed to move certain elements, eg equipment, animals or animal products on to or off your holding with a licence from APHA or DARD. You’ll also have to clean and disinfect the restricted poultry sheds under their supervision each time you de-populate.

Once you’re under movement restrictions, you can only restock your restricted sheds after tests come back negative.

Speak to your vet for advice on how to control salmonella.

You won’t have to pay for any samples or testing carried out by APHA or DARD because of a positive test result.

Keep records

Keep records for at least 2 years. APHA or DARD officials can check your records at any time, eg during a routine NCP visit or a visit after a positive test result.

In Northern Ireland there may be different requirements please contact your local DARD office.

Keep test records

For each test you must record the:

  • date you took the sample
  • the flock identification, which is the flock’s house name or number, and the month and year the flock moved into the house
  • type of sample, eg boot swab or dust sample
  • age of the flock
  • date you plan to have the flock slaughtered
  • laboratory that tested the sample
  • test result

Keep movement records

You need to record any movement of birds to or from your holding. For each movement record the:

  • date of movement
  • number of birds
  • age of the birds
  • house name or number, and the month and year the flock moved onto your holding
  • address that the birds moved from (including the building name or number)
  • address that the birds moved to (including the building name or number)

Food chain information documents

You must declare the flock’s most recent salmonella test result in the food chain information (FCI) documents that you send with the birds to slaughter if you market any meat from your birds as fresh meat.

You don’t have to declare the most recent salmonella test if you heat treat all the meat from the flock before marketing it for human consumption.

Declare salmonella test results

You must declare all the NCP Salmonella test results, negative or positive, as well as the date the sample was taken from the flock in the Food Chain Information (FCI) documents accompanying the batch to slaughter.

This is a legal requirement and the birds may not be slaughtered if this information is not provided.

Further information

Contact your nearest APHA or DARD office if you need more advice.

You can also read the code of practice for prevention of salmonella in turkey flocks (PDF, 153KB, 31 pages) , which provides best practice for preventing salmonella.

Published 8 February 2016