Salmonella National Control Programmes (SNCPs) in Italy have the required sampling frequency and correct sampling protocol but there are still some deficiencies, according to findings from the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO).
An audit in Italy from 3 to 13 December 2013 was completed as part of the FVO planned programme.
It evaluated actions by the Italian competent authorities to control Salmonella, in particular the implementation of SNCPs in certain poultry populations.
The control system is well organised and effective tools are available for the competent authorities to monitor and review continuously the progress of the programmes, found the audit .
However deficiencies were found in routine confirmatory sampling policy for breeder flocks, protocol for confirmation sampling in layers and restrictive measures applied for table eggs only after serotyping.
The competent authority cannot provide guarantees on the reliability of own-check results due to the lack of regular participation by private laboratories in collaborative testing, said the audit report.
Sampling policy issue
The audit team visited one hatchery and two holdings of breeding flocks for broilers.
Salmonella prevalence for the year 2012 was 0.7% for breeding flocks, according to data from the Italian Competent Authority to the European Commission – meaning the EU target was achieved.
Under the SNCP vaccination is not mandatory but allowed with the exception of the use of live vaccines that are undistinguishable from field strains.
Frequency and sampling protocol for official and own-check samples in the farms visited or after reviewing the test result documentation were in accordance with the EU legislation, said the report.
“However the delay between the receipt of own-check samples by a private laboratory and the initiation of the tests involved for one of the farms visited exceeded the maximum 48 hours set in EU legislation.
“Furthermore the delay in commencing testing, in most cases, exceeded 96 hours from the time when the samples had been taken.”
Confirmation sampling in laying hens
Salmonella prevalence for 2012 was 1.2% and the EU's reduction target was achieved in laying hens.
The audit team was told that restrictive measures are applied only after serotyping which is not in line with the necessary regulation.
In one holding Salmonella spp. was identified in an own-check sample.
“The official laboratory involved did not send the test results to the FBO after the Salmonella spp. were isolated but awaited the results of serotyping which took five days and during this delay no restrictive measures were applied to eggs from this farm.”
In one official laboratory visited the accreditation, collaborative testing, analyses methods etc. were in line with EU requirements.
The audit team reviewed the test results of official samples sent by the official laboratory in Verona to another one for testing.
Time between sampling and testing was respected (96 hours) in one case however time between reception of the sample by the second laboratory and testing was 72 hours instead of 48.
There are ten central Experimental Zooprophylaxis Institute (IZS) with 88 field diagnostic units (laboratories) at provincial level and they are subject to control and supervision by the regions.
The audit team visited one private laboratory performing Salmonella testing on own-check samples.
This laboratory is accredited to ISO 17025 by the Italian body ACCREDIA. Initial accreditation was granted in 2007, it is renewed every four years and ACCREDIA visits the laboratory every year.
Since 2010, the competent authority should visit designated laboratories, however the lab visited by the audit team has never been checked.
There have been no Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications linked to table eggs or poultry meat from Italy during the past three years.