To evaluate the effect of specific slaughter operations on the contamination of broiler carcasses with naturally occurring thermotolerant Campylobacter, experiments were carried out in two Danish commercial slaughter plants (Plant I and Plant 11). Six broiler flocks determined Campylobacter positive prior to slaughter were investigated at four sampling locations within each slaughter plant. Quantification of thermotolerant Campylobacter in 30 neck skin samples per flock per sampling location showed that the evisceration operation in Plant I led to a significant increase in the Campylobacter concentration of 0.5 log(10) cfu/g in average, whereas no significant changes were observed during this operation in Plant II. Air chilling (Plant 1) and water chilling (Plant 11), both including a carcass wash prior to the chilling operation, caused similar, but significant reductions of 0.83 and 0.97 log(10) cfu/g, respectively. In packed frozen chickens (Plant II) an additional reduction of 1.38 log(10) cfu/g in average was obtained due to the freezing operation. In packed chilled chickens (Plant 1), however, the number of thermotolerant Campylobacter per gram remained at the same level as after air chilling. Enumeration of thermotolerant Campylobacter in 30 intestinal samples per flock showed that in two of the six flocks examined the within flock colonization was very low (<3% and 27% positive samples). The remaining four flocks were colonized at percentages of 100 (three flocks) and 97 (one flock) and had intestinal mean counts ranging from 6.65 to 8.20 log(10) cfu/g. A correlation between Campylobacter concentrations in intestinal content and on chicken carcasses after the defeathering operation was documented. This finding indicates that a reduction in the Campylobacter concentration on chicken carcasses may also be obtained by interventions aimed at reducing the concentration of Campylobacter in the intestines of the living birds. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.