The study, Scientific Opinion on the public health hazards to be covered by inspection of meat (swine), found that in the EU, ante-and-post-mortem inspections on swine are not always conducted in accordance with regulations, reducing the chance of identifying certain livestock diseases.
EFSA said the report on swine, which was commissioned by the European Commission, was the first of six opinions that will completely modernise meat inspection across the EU.
Difficult to detect
As well as assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the current meat inspection method, scientific experts from EFSA have recommended techniques which take into account the hazards not covered by current regulations.
Salmonella, Yersinia enterocolitica and Toxoplasma gondoii and Trichinella, which are all priority inspection targets in swine, have been difficult to detect using current processes.
EFSA commented that the methods currently in place to judge the fitness of meat for consumption do “not differentiate food safety aspects from meat quality aspects, control of animal diseases or occupational hazards.”
“Current ante-or-post-mortem inspection does not enable detection of some of these bacterial and parasitic foodborne hazards.”
Although infections such as Trichinella and other pork related contaminations are relatively uncommon in the majority of EU member states, countries such as Romania, Poland and Lithuania still experience cases.
An EFSA report published alongside the Scientific Opinion recorded 700 cases of Trichinella infected pigs in Romania in the last 5 years, and over 30,000 cases of human infection due to pork consumption in the last 25 years.
The report confirmed that while “most member states in principle meet the requirements,” they are not “necessarily fulfilled.”
Testing for medicinal residues, faecal contamination, heavy metals, hormones and dioxins - which can all result in human disease – are regarded as insufficient.
The report has suggested that although these chemical substances are unlikely to pose an immediate or short term health risk, “the current meat inspection procedures, these contaminants and chemical residues are not specifically addressed.”
Over the course of these reports, inspection methods concerning domestic swine, poultry, bovine animals, domestic sheep, goats, farmed game and domestic soliped will be scrutinised.
EFSA evaluated the process involved with meat inspection “in order to access the fitness of the meat for human consumption and to monitor foodborne zoonotic infections.”
“If and when the current methodology for this purpose would be considered not to be the most satisfactory to major hazards for public health, additional methods should be recommended.”
EFSA will publish their next Scientific Opinion on meat inspection in 2012.