Regulations Coming to Control Salmonella in Turkeys

Directives and regulations from the EU have been driving to control zoonotic infections in livestock and in particular poultry as part of the improved food hygiene legislation, writes ThePoultrySite Senior Editor, Chris Harris.
calendar icon 18 April 2008
clock icon 6 minute read

The aim of the EU is for each country to have a plan of action to reduce foodborne pathogens from primary production through to the retail shelf.

The initial major focus of the EU plans is to reduce the prevalence of salmonella and the directives have focused on individual countries to draw up their own national plans in order to ensure a reduction in incidence of the pathogen amongst livestock.

In the poultry sector the drive initially focused on breeding flocks of chickens, but now the drive has moved to other species. The drive, which started with breeding flocks of chickens, has moved to laying hens, broilers and now also turkeys and breeding pigs.

The legislation for turkeys comes into force in June this year and the action plan has to be a continuum from the farm, through slaughter and processing, through retail, and into the kitchen.

Speaking at a recent British Poultry Council turkey conference, Harry Bailie from the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said that it has been decided to concentrate on five different salmonella serotypes at the farm level Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella Virchow and Salmonella Infantis.

Top Five Serotypes in the European Community from the Enter-Net surveillance database in 2005 in people
Serovar Number %
S. Enteritidis 62,290 69.1
S. Typhimurium 12,828 12.8
S. Hadar 2,064 2.1
S. Virchow 1,026 1
S. Infantis 887 0.8

"The aim of the Zoonoses Regulation is to reduce the prevalence of certain zoonotic infections at the primary production level," said Mr Bailie. "There is room to bolt on other pathogens at a later stage."

Mr Bailie said that the five serotypes were chose because they were the most prevalent across Europe, with Salmonella Enteritidis top of the list claiming 69.1 per cent of the human cases in Europe in 2005 according to the latest Euro-net figures. Salmonella Typhimurium claimed the next highest number with 12.8 per cent of the cases.

As had been the case with laying hens and broilers, a survey was established across Europe to establish the depth of the problem in the turkey flocks in the UK.

The study, carried out between 2006-2007, looked at five pairs of boot swabs taken from each flock on breeder turkey farms within nine weeks of depopulation and five pairs of boot swabs were taken from one flock on each holding within three weeks of slaughter. The samples were taken randomly and looked at the pick up of faeces and other contaminants.

Mr Bailie said that the EU had set out a detailed protocol that stipulated the tests had to cover 80 per cent of the turkey flocks of more than 500 birds.

The details of the protocol were set out in Decision (EC) No 2006/666 and in the technical document SANCO/2083/2006. This meant the study looked at 116 breeder flocks on 29 holdings, in the UK, and 165 turkey meat flocks of between 500 and 4,999 birds and 152 flocks of more than 5,000 birds.

Samples taken in turkey meat sector
Turkeys for meat UK No of birds on holding 500 – 4,999 No of birds on holding > 5000
Number of flocks sampled 165 152

Samples taken in turkey breeder sector
Breeder Turkeys UK No of holdings No of flocks
Number of flocks sampled 29 116 (130)

Every EU state had to send its findings through to the European Commission in a report and this was then passed on to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for analysis.

The analysis of the studies across Europe will establish the prevalence of different salmonella serotypes in each country and also find an EU mean. The findings are expected to be reported in late spring to early summer this year.

In the UK, Mr Bailie said that Defra will be trying to identify the risk factor in turkey flocks and will report by the end of the year. The results of the reports will establish targets to reduce Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium.

"In broilers, the target to reduce infected flocks was set at one per cent, " Mr Bailie said.

"The EU has suggested a one per cent target for turkey flocks within three years."

He said that by July of this year targets should be set and an agreed method of reduction laid out.

The EU is allowing states a year to get the programme up and running and there should be a mandatory reduction reached in three years, by 2012. However, there has to be a total absence of salmonella in turkey meat by 2010-2011.

"Defra has been working with the British Poultry Council and we have started preparing plans to meet the targets. Defra is still funding research into how to reduce salmonella levels," Mr Bailie said.

He added that any public health benefits will only come about if the programme of reduction runs through every stage of turkey meat production and, to achieve this, the ministry is also working closely with the Food Standards Agency.

He said that Defra is urging producers to prepare now and it is offering advice on control and reduction of salmonella on the farm as well as meeting regularly with industry members.

He added that the programme will include close monitoring or salmonella incidence and the reduction and, once there has been a significant achievement with salmonella, the targets will be shifted to other pathogens.

"For turkeys we are not certain what we will go for next, but in broilers Campylobacter is coming up and there is also a great interest in antimicrobial resistance," Mr Bailie added.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium by clicking here.

April 2008
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