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Current situation and future perspectives: continuing development of meat inspection

03/2013, 07.02.2013

Sharing experiences and discussing risk-oriented meet inspection on the occasion of a BfR symposium on 7 February 2013

Consumers expect food to be safe. Consumption of meat and other animal-based foods must not pose any health risks. For this reason, meat must be tested for pathogens before it is placed on the market. Currently important pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter cannot, however, be detected with the methods of anatomical pathology. For some years now, it has been possible to substitute this conventional approach to the inspection of pork with so-called risk-oriented inspections. The goal is to further increase the safety of meat by means of measures such as biosecurity measures on farm, monitoring animal health in the stable and by ensuring hygienic slaughtering and transport conditions. "Not only the assessment of the end product but the whole production chain provides important insights into the safety of meat and meat products", explains BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. Within the framework of the symposium "On the development of meat inspection - current situation and future perspectives", food producers, representatives of the official food control administration, veterinarians and other scientists will discuss their experiences and insights in the area of risk-oriented meat inspection. The aim of the event held in Berlin-Marienfelde is to give an outlook on the future of food hygiene. With this symposium, the BfR continues its series of regular events on this topic begun a few years ago.

Already since 2006, the so-called hygiene package in the EU has provided the legal grounds for changing conventional meat inspections of pork to risk-oriented procedures under certain circumstances. The hygiene package was introduced against the background that with the conventional method, which includes cutting the tonsils and larynx of the carcass, important pathogens, for example salmonella, mycobacteria and campylobacter, cannot be detected. The same applies to material risks such as contaminants in feed or residues from veterinary medicinal products.

A central point of risk-oriented meat inspection is disclosure of data along the food supply chain - from animal production to the slaughtering process. Food producers collect extensive information on the supplied animals and provide this information to the official food control administration. Food control officials can then choose appropriate inspection methods for the carcasses. In this way, quality-assured data collection and recording in the production facilities can make a contribution to hazard estimation in terms of human exposure to pathogens.

Even though intensive modern production conditions in agriculture already require provision of information on fattening stock, the concept of risk-oriented meat inspection is still only adopted to a limited extent. Meanwhile, however, concrete projects on the introduction of a risk-oriented meat inspection without the need for cutting have emerged. These projects show: not only large companies in the meat business but also medium-sized firms in Germany are now confident that they are capable of meeting the legal requirements.

The previous models of risk-oriented meat inspections arose from drafts created within individual companies. The goal of the BfR symposium is to continue the current discussion of the new national regulation, standardised across the federal states, on carcass and meat inspection.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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