Guidance on controlling Salmonella levels at hog facilities has been published in response to pork being implicated in recent outbreaks.
The first edition provides best practices at hog slaughter facilities to prevent, eliminate, or reduce levels of the pathogen at all stages of slaughter and dressing, said the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS).
Nontyphoidal Salmonella is the most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness, accounting for 11% (about 1 million illnesses), 35% of hospitalizations and 28% of deaths, said the agency.
Between 2000 and 2007, four outbreaks and 102 illnesses per year (average) have been associated with pork.
Estimates were calculated for outbreaks where it was the sole implicated food vehicle or the only contaminated ingredient.
FSIS said that the draft document reflects its current thinking on the issue and urged hog slaughter facilities to use the information in decision making processes from pre-harvest to slaughter.
A multifactorial infection such as Salmonella requires a multi-level approach of intervention and control with strategies based on practical and economically feasible measures.
It said the main routes for cross contamination are airborne bacteria, contact with dirty surfaces and splashing of contaminated fluid on walls and floors.
Sanitary maintenance of slaughter house equipment, good slaughtering practices, and effective washing and disinfection of equipment and materials are critical to reducing contamination.
“Microbial contamination in the slaughter house environment can start with the delivery of Salmonella positive hogs,” said the draft guidance.
“However, there is significant scientific evidence that a large number of hogs are exposed to Salmonella during lariage.
“Such awareness of potentially significant areas of contamination can serve as reinforcement to reduce Salmonella during harvest.”
If sanitary conditions are not maintained throughout slaughter and processing, reductions in microbial load at some stages of the process can be offset by cross-contamination or recontamination at subsequent stages of the process.
Market hog data
FSIS conducted the Nationwide Microbiological Baseline Data Collection Program; Market Hog Survey, from August 2010 to August 2011.
It estimated the positive percent and levels of microbiological pathogens and indicator bacteria on market hog carcasses.
FSIS collected sponge samples at pre-evisceration and post-chill from two separate shifts from the belly, ham, and jowl portion of market hogs slaughtered in Federal establishments.
3,920 sponge samples (1,960 at pre-evisceration and 1,960 at post-chill) at 152 establishments were collected.
The guidance was issued as part of the Salmonella Action Plan which lists actions to reduce Salmonella-related illnesses from FSIS regulated products, including pork.
The agency is seeking comments for 60 days (until 7 March) on the document published in the Federal Register .