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Weekly Overview: Ensuring Poultry Meat is Safe to Eat

27 March 2014

GLOBAL - Changes are ahead for the inspection of poultry meat in the European Union and in the US so that the processes better meet the requirements of the 21st century, writes Jackie Linden. In China, there is growing support for an end to live poultry markets as the threat of H7N9 influenza is taken more seriously by the public. Following recent outbreaks on H5N1 influenza in poultry in both countries, Cambodia and Viet Nam are talking about cooperation in controlling the disease. Northern Viet Nam has been tipped as the next area likely to be hit by the H7N9 virus.

Changes to the poultry meat inspection system in Europe are expected to come into force later this year.

The changes will see a less invasive inspection of the poultry carcasses as they pass along the line and the introduction of a more risk-based system.

The new measures for meat inspection follow scientific studies by the European Food Safety Authority that were completed last year and cover all livestock slaughtered for the human food chain. New inspection measures were introduced for pig meat last year.

Speaking at a recent conference staged by the English Beef and Lamb executive on meat processing, Javier Dominguez, the veterinary director and head of foodborne disease control at the UK’s Food Standards Agency said that with the traditional inspection methods, there is an increased likelihood of cross contamination of carcasses because of the amount they are touched by the inspectors.

He added that many of the public health problems are microbiological problems with pathogens such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and VTEC – E. coli. These microbiological problems cannot be seen and only a few hazards can be found through meat inspection.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an update on the proposed rules under its Food Safety Modernization Act, allowing more time for comment on two areas of the Act - but not on the part on animal feeds.

The federal government in Canada is proposing to give itself the power to fine meat-processing plants that break hygiene and other operating rules meant to protect human health.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the regulatory change would give it another enforcement tool to help protect consumers. Meat industry representatives and at least one food safety expert are said to be sceptical about the development.

More than half of respondents in a recent poll in Guangzhou in Guangdong province, China, support centralised slaughter of chickens and a ban on the live chicken trade in wet markets.

The city government prepares to trial centralised chicken slaughtering in the region where the H7N9 avian influenza virus has been found at markets and on a farm.

And finally, turning to news of bird flu, Vietnamese and Cambodian authorities are in discussion over the control of the H5N1 virus after outbreaks in poultry have been reported in both countries lately. The infection has been confirmed in two Egyptians in the last week - the first cases for 11 months. Another three Chinese patients have been reported infected by the H7N9 virus, and a new study suggests northern Viet Nam is the next high-risk area for this virus. In Mexico, the H7N3 virus has been found in exotic birds imported from South America.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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