Expert Calls for Action Against Pathogens in Feed

MANITOBA, CANADA - A food safety and food microbiology professor is calling for action to prevent the contamination of animal feeds with the pathogens responsible for foodborne illness in humans, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 17 April 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Over the past decade incidents of foodborne illness resulting from contaminated produce, most notably baby spinach and iceberg lettuce, by E. Coli O157:H7 and Salmonella have escalated sharply.

Dr. Rick Holley, with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, says, while the cause is not certain, the evidence suggests irrigation water and improperly composted livestock manure are possible sources.

He explains, pathogens carried in feed ingredients end up being recycled through the animal in manure which is then used, as it should, to fertilize crops.

Clip-Dr. Rick Holley-University of Manitoba

When you take a look at the data what you see are 25 percent of feed samples in North America are contaminated with Salmonella.

If we're doing things right, that shouldn't be.

As each week progresses we become more involved in intense agricultural production with animals being raised in closer confinement.

And while animal rights, the attempt is to respect them, by raising animals in close quarters we provide opportunity for the organisms like Salmonella and E. Coli, which normally don't make the animals sick, to be transferred among the animals.

The more frequently we feed animal feed that is contaminated with these organisms the longer the animals will shed the organisms and the longer they shed the organisms the more opportunity there is for those organisms to end up on the lettuce and the spinach.

Dr. Holley believes the best approach is to keep the organisms out of the feed in the first place.

He says, because the animals are not affected by these organisms, there's no incentive to take action and, until that happens, the risks associated with the consumption of produce will become even greater.

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