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Getting salmonella under control

BPEX recently announced some significant changes in the salmonella control programme

In recent years, the EU has put increasing emphasis on the control of salmonella in the pig production chain. In earlier years, the focus was very much on egg and poultry production. EFSA estimate that salmonella in fresh pork contributed to between 10 and 20% of cases of human salmonellosis across the EU in 2009 and require that all Member States should have an effective zoonosis control programme in place by 2014.

The British pig industry introduced a Zoonoses National Control Programme (ZNCP) some years ago and a major element was ‘meat juice testing’ at the abattoir to identify salmonella antibodies in individual animals in order to build up a profile of supplying farms, and categorising them into high, medium and low salmonella risk categories.

The programme has not been successful in reducing the levels of salmonella at farm level and BPEX have now decided to shift the emphasis to an on-farm salmonella ‘risk assessment’ on individual farms. The new ZNCP approach will require appropriate ‘action plans’ to be developed to seek reduction of salmonella levels on-farm – for example, improvement of cleaning and disinfection routines, pest control, feed controls and waste management.

The Danish Salmonella Control Programme has been in place since 1995, based on a whole chain approach covering feed, breeding, primary production and procedures at the abattoir. It also includes the levying of financial penalties on farms who maintain high salmonella levels. Although more recently more emphasis has been placed on hygiene controls at the abattoir, ‘meat juice testing’ of pigs from individual farms remains a key tool in identifying farms with a higher prevalence of salmonella. The available evidence suggests that over the period of the operation of the scheme, the number of cases of human salmonellosis, which can be attributed to fresh pork, has fallen significantly.