The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has completed the first stage of a major piece of work that will provide the scientific basis for the modernisation of meat inspection across the EU.
The first set covers the inspection of swine.
In the area of biological hazards, the food-borne hazards Salmonella, Yersinia enterocolitica, Toxoplasma gondii and Trichinella were identified as priority targets in the inspection of swine meat at abattoir level, due to their prevalence and impact on human health. It was concluded that current inspection methods do not enable the early detection of the first three of these hazards and, more broadly, do not differentiate food safety aspects from meat quality aspects, prevention of animal diseases or occupational hazards. The main recommendations on biological hazards are to:
• Omit the use of palpation and/or incision techniques in post-mortem inspection of pigs subject to routine slaughter because of the risk of bacterial cross-contamination.
• Introduce a comprehensive pork carcass safety assurance framework, combining a range of preventive measures applied on-farm and at-abattoir in an integrated way as this is the only means to ensure an effective control of the main hazards.
• Collect and analyse food chain information (FCI) at herd and abattoir levels to enable a more location-specific assessment of risk.
In the area of animal health and welfare, it was noted that the abolition of palpation and/or incision would lead to a reduction in detection of some diseases but that in cases where several organs are affected, this effect was likely to be minimal. To mitigate the reduced detection probability of the proposed modified system, experts recommend that palpation and/or incision should be conducted as a follow-up to a visual inspection showing abnormalities.
In the area of contaminants, dioxins, dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls and the antibiotic chloramphenicol were identified as chemical substances of high potential concern in pork, based on pre-defined criteria. However, it was concluded that chemical substances at the concentrations found in swine meat are unlikely to pose an immediate or short-term health risk for consumers. The experts recommend:
• the development of risk-based sampling strategies that differentiate between farms producing pigs under conditions of fully implemented HACCP-based protocols and with complete FCI, and farms with less stringent quality control procedures.
• the encouragement of ad hoc amendments to sampling plans to take account of emerging substances in the food chain.
• and the inclusion of ante- and post-mortem inspection criteria to identify illicit use of substances and encourage analysis at farm level.
Monday October 3, 2011/ EFSA/ European Union.