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Salmonella checks 'not good enough': food safety watchdog

By Mike Stones , 02-Jul-2012

Traditional poultry meat inspection may not be good enough to protect against threats to food safety such as campylobacter, salmonella and ESBL/AmpC gene-carrying bacteria, warns the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Salmonella inspections are not 'good enough': EFSA

Salmonella inspections are not 'good enough': EFSA

EFSA’s latest scientific opinion concludes that modernising poultry meat inspections, based on risk-based interventions, coupled with the improved use of information shared between farms and abattoirs – known as food chain information – is needed to offer more effective protection.

Its scientists were asked to identify and rank the main risks for public health from the current poultry meat inspection system and recommend methods that take into account the hazards not addressed by current meat inspection.

Due to their prevalence and impact on human health, the food-borne hazards campylobacter, salmonella, and bacteria carrying extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)/AmpC genes were identified as priority targets for inspection at poultry abattoirs.

Safety concerns

“EFSA confirms that current inspection methods do not enable the detection of these hazards and, more broadly, do not differentiate food safety concerns from considerations related to meat quality, prevention of animal diseases or occupational hazards,” according to a statement.

Its scientists recommended:

  • introducing a comprehensive food safety assurance system, including clear targets for what should be achieved in poultry carcasses.
  • use a variety of control options available for the main hazards, at both farm and abattoir level, in order to meet these targets.
  • collect and analyse food chain information at farm and abattoir levels to enable risk categorisation of flocks and classification of abattoirs according to their capacity to reduce carcass contamination.

Collecting such information should play a key role in identifying animal health and welfare problems, it added. “EFSA notes that meat inspection is a valuable tool for surveillance and monitoring of specific animal health and welfare conditions,” said the scientists.

Post-mortem

If visual post-mortem inspection is removed, more information on animal disease and welfare conditions could be collected from food chain information. “Extended use of food chain information has the potential to compensate for some (but not all) of the information on animal health and welfare that would be lost if visual post-mortem inspection is removed,” they said.

The EFSA scientific opinion also concluded that chemical substances found in poultry meat are unlikely to pose an immediate or acute health threat to consumers. While the scientists identified dioxins, dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls, the antibiotics chloramphenicol, nitrofurans and nitroimidazoles as chemical substances of “high potential concern in poultry meat", the scientists concluded that they were unlikely to pose an immediate or acute health risk for consumers.

It recommended:

  • sampling of poultry carcasses should be based on the available food chain information, including results from feed controls and the frequency of sampling for farms should be adjusted accordingly;
  • control programmes for residues and contaminants should include new and emerging substances and should be regularly updated.

To read the opinion, click here .

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