Weekly Overview: Perspective on Food Safety Risks from Poultry Meat

ANALYSIS - This week’s news in the global poultry markets has included some significant developments in terms of the food safety risks from poultry meat. In the EU and US, discussions have begun on modernising meat inspection procedures to tackle better today's food safety risks. Among these is Listeria in ready-to-eat foods, which has been the subject of an EFSA baseline survey.
calendar icon 4 July 2013
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This week’s news in the global poultry markets has included some significant developments in terms of the food safety risks from poultry meat.

One key area was whether changes to poultry meat inspection will improve global standards in terms of meat quality and food safety.

The question of the efficiency and efficacy of poultry meat inspection has been addressed on both sides of the Atlantic recently.

In the EU last year, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published an opinion on the existing inspection procedures in poultry slaughterhouses and came to the conclusion that the simple visual inspection is not sufficient at a time when concerns over pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter are rising.

EFSA called for the introduction of a comprehensive food safety assurance system, including clear targets for what should be achieved in poultry carcasses and, where appropriate, with respect to a particular hazard for poultry flocks.

The authority also recommended the use of a variety of control options for the main hazards throughout the food chain - on the farm and at the abattoir - to meet the targets.

It identified Campylobacter, Salmonella and bacteria carrying extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)/AmpC genes as priority targets in the inspection of poultry meat at abattoirs because of their prevalence and impact on human health.

There has been broad support in favour of modernisation from the industry in the EU and recently, similar sentiments were expressed in the US as the House Appropriations Committee amended and passed the 2014 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.

The amendment, which was adopted on voice vote, called for the science-based inspection system to be put in place at once across the US and calls on the USDA to take swift action

With more science-based and tighter controls in both Europe and the US, it is only a matter of time before other countries will also adapt their inspections systems and adopt methods similar to those in the US and EU. Not to do so would lead to barriers to trade and could start trade wars.

In the last week, the first part of EFSA’s analysis of an EU-wide baseline survey on Listeria monocytogenes has been published, providing insights into its presence in selected ready-to-eat foods - fish, cold meats and soft cheeses.

The proportion of samples exceeding the legal food safety limit was low – just 2.1 per cent of meat samples collected from supermarkets and shops - and the EU food safety limit was exceeded in only 0.4 per cent of meat samples.

However, given the popularity of these foods and the severe implications that Listeria infections (listeriosis) can have on human health, overall vigilance regarding the possible presence of the bacteria in food is warranted, stated EFSA.

Last week, there was a report from Spain comparing pathogen-reduction treatments of chicken carcasses in the processing plant.

The most effective chemical treatment depended on the foodborne pathogen examined and the degree of severity of the disruption of the cold-chain.

Trisodium phosphate was the most effective compound for mild cold-chain disruptions and, for more severe disruptions, acidified sodium chlorite showed a marked effect.

Food safety concerns are not the reserve of western countries.

Bahrain's main chicken factory has dismissed claims that it has risked public health recently. A case was filed against the company, claiming it failed to vaccinate more than 28,000 chicks.

The company’s general director denied any wrong-doing, saying that the responsibility for providing vaccinations rests with the chicken farmers.

After quantifying Listeria in chicken offal in Malaysia, researchers concluded that there is a need to investigate the biosafety level of such products in the country.

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