Improvements to existing practices for the inspection of meat across Europe have been proposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
EFSA recommended introducing a meat safety assurance system, including clear targets for main hazards in carcasses, categorising herds/farms and slaughterhouses according to the magnitude of risk posed by biological hazards and omitting palpation or incision techniques in post-mortem inspection.
Traditional practices of meat inspection are not always suitable for detecting the main meat-borne hazards such as Campylobacter and Salmonella or contamination by chemical substances such as persistent organic pollutants or prohibited substances, said the body.
EFSA identified foodborne biological and chemical hazards and ranked them according to their risk for public health.
The four scientific outputs published provide advice on meat inspection procedures in cattle, sheep and goats, farmed game, and domestic solipeds such as horses.
They follow two previous opinions on inspection of swine and poultry, published in 2011 and 2012.
EFSA said meat inspection is a valuable tool for surveillance and monitoring of specific animal health and welfare conditions.
“If only visual post-mortem inspection is applied, other approaches should be followed to compensate for the associated loss of information with regard to surveillance of animal disease and welfare conditions.
“A change to a visual-only post-mortem inspection would decrease the quality of surveillance for some animal diseases. In particular, surveillance of bovine tuberculosis will be adversely affected.”
They added that extended use of information collected throughout the food chain could compensate for some of the information lost due to the proposed changes.
Under contaminants, the agency said there needs to be more flexible control programmes based on test results and open to new hazards and more integrated sampling, testing and intervention protocols for monitoring chemicals in the food chain and environmental contaminants.
The work is to protect consumers from risks related to such hazards and was requested by the European Commission.
For biological hazards, the agency identified verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) and Salmonella in cattle, VTEC and toxoplasma in sheep and goats, trichinella in solipeds and salmonella and toxoplasma in farmed game such as wild boar.
Chemical hazards such as dioxins, dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (DL-PCBs) were identified as the main hazards for cattle and sheep and goats while phenylbutazone (bute) and chemical elements such as cadmium were highlighted for solipeds.