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EU member states have backed plans to allow Denmark to introduce strict new Salmonella controls on poultry products.

EU: Danish chickens in a class of their own

The EU has recognised that Danish broiler chickens are salmonella-free and have therefore approved Denmark’s application for special status for poultry meat. This means that imported broiler chickens must be tested as free from salmonella.

For years, Danish Chicken meat has been salmonella-free owing to Danish poultry farmers’ long-standing battle against salmonella. The EU recognised this achievement when, on February 1st, it approved Denmark’s application for special status for poultry. As a result, the Danish authorities can now demand that imported Chicken meat should be salmonella-free.
“The poultry industry has worked systematically to control salmonella, and this is now paying off. Thanks to a sustained effort, particularly by the Minister for the Environment and Food and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, Denmark has now been awarded special status - a significant victory for Danish consumers,” says Martin Hjort Jensen, Chairman of the Danish Agriculture and Food Council Poultry division.

Whereas salmonella bacteria were found in 14% of all tested samples from Danish broilers in 1992, the figure was down to just 0.3% in 2017. Moreover, the number of human cases fell from 1,581 in 1988 to just nine in 2016.

“The application for special status was submitted to the EU 12 years ago. It has been a very long process, which now finally proves that Danish broiler production is in a league of its own,” says Me Nielsen Blom, Chief Consultant, Food Safety, Veterinary Affairs and Risk Analysis.

“Throughout this period, Danish broiler producers have complied with the rules and have, as a result, been granted special status. This means that we cull all flocks containing any type of salmonella. In fact, Denmark is one of the few countries in the world to do so. Other countries only use these measures in the case of very few types of salmonella.

Martin Hjort Jensen points out that this could only have been achieved through close collaboration between farmers, government ministers and the Danish and EU food authorities.

“I feel proud on behalf of Danish broiler farmers”, says Martin Hjort Hansen. “An enormous amount of work has been undertaken at production sites to control and reduce the prevalence of salmonella, which has ensured a higher standard of food safety for Danish consumers.”

The poultry industry began to monitor the presence of salmonella in broilers back in the 1990s. The first public salmonella action plan for poultry was drawn up in 1996 and has been expanded several times since. The salmonella action plan for broiler chickens covers all stages of production.

Denmark now joins Sweden and Finland as the only other EU countries to be awarded special salmonella-free status. The two countries retained their status when they were admitted as members of the EU.

Facts about salmonella control
The salmonella action plan is the most stringent of its kind in the world and includes continual monitoring of all poultry flocks, heat treatment of all poultry feed, rigorous audit schemes focusing on high bio-security standards as well as rules specifying which animal materials may be used in Danish broiler chicken production.

By 2007, the prevalence of salmonella in Danish broiler chickens had been reduced so much that Denmark applied to the EU for special status for salmonella in Chicken meat. This means that from now on Denmark is entitled to demand that imported Chicken meat must have the same low level of salmonella as Danish Chicken meat.

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