DISPATCHES FROM CODEX ALIMENTARIUS, GENEVA

Trichinella parasites in pork subject of Codex guidelines

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Commission made the decision at its 38th meeting in Geneva this week
The Commission made the decision at its 38th meeting in Geneva this week

Related tags: Codex alimentarius

Guidelines to ensure pig meat is safe from Trichinella parasites have been adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).

Human infection comes from eating raw or undercooked meat of many species (e.g. domestic pig, horse, game) containing infective Trichinella larvae.

The Commission said pig meat from negligible risk areas can be traded without extensive testing but carcasses from places where Trichinella may infect pigs will be tested rigorously.

Proposed draft guidelines had been adapted at Step 5 during the last CAC meeting after the need for clarification on two sections, following this, they were adopted during the 38th​ meeting this week.

Step 5 involves the Commission reviewing progress and agreeing the draft should go to finalization.

Trichinellosis burden

Between 1986 and 2009 there were 65,818 human trichinellosis cases and 42 deaths in 41 countries (Murrell and Pozio, 2011).  

In 2011, more than 36 million live pigs and 12 million tonnes of pig meat were exported and value of the meat exceeded $37bn. (FAOSTAT, 2014).

Laws requiring carcass testing to ensure meat is not infected have been part of veterinary public health practices for more than a century, according to the Commission.

However, in areas where the risk of pigs carrying Trichinella is negligible, farmers are no longer required to test each individual carcass.

The guidelines are primarily intended for government risk managers and industry in the design and implementation of food control systems.

Post-slaughter control measures include laboratory testing and follow-up actions, freezing and heat treatment. Irradiation of meat is also an option to destroy parasites.

Since each country has specific consumption habits, communication programs are most effective when created by individual governments.

Retailers and consumers, including people who visit regions where Trichinella is endemic, should be aware meat should be fully cooked e.g. a core temperature of at least 71°C as recommended by the International Commission on Trichinellosis (ICT) to avoid becoming sick, according to the guidelines.

Process background

Control of Trichinella in meat alongside control of Taenia saginata in meat, was assigned as priority work at the 42nd Session of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) in 2010.

The revised proposed text was prepared during CCFH’s 46th​ session in Peru last year.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) revised Chapter 8.14 of its Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Terrestrial Code) on “Infection with Trichinella spp.”(new Chapter 8.15).

The guidelines provide a framework for decisions regarding post-slaughter control measures to protect humans from eating meat which may be infected with Trichinella.

Pre-harvest preventative measures are described in Chapter 8.15 of the above OIE Code.​ 

FAO/WHO produced a report and held an expert meeting last year on risk-based examples for control of Trichinella and Taenia Saginata.

CAC said clarifications had been made from when it made the step 5 decision at its last meeting and forwarded the draft guidelines for adoption at step 8.

This step follows a final round of comments, after which the Commission adopts the draft as a formal Codex text and it is then published. 

Codex texts are voluntary and non-binding and a government can adopt its own level of protection by going beyond or stopping short of Codex guidelines.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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