For as long as there have been animals, there has been Salmonella. It’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. It’s not going to go away.
“The harder you look for it, the more you can find it,” says Paul Sundberg, executive director of the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC).
Salmonella is an opportunistic bacterium that loves to “get into something at risk,” he explains. If it can find an immune system that is not quite up to speed in pigs, cows or humans, Salmonella will go for it.
That’s why leaders in the U.S. pork industry tuned in when USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced last October that it is mobilizing a stronger and more comprehensive effort to reduce Salmonella illnesses associated with poultry products.
Why is this of such great interest to the pork industry? Salmonella I 4, ,12:i:-, an emerging serotype in swine, has become one of the most identified serotypes in pigs, pork and humans worldwide.
“There are multiple types of Salmonella. We are seeing a lot of interest in this particular strain of Salmonella typhimurium because of its ability to infect both animals and humans,” Sundberg says.
It’s a problem that just keeps evolving.
Salmonella Standards for Pork
The pork industry has been hearing about Salmonella standards in the works for pork for some time. FSIS recently shared that they are taking a comprehensive approach to reducing human illness of Salmonella by 25%. A part of this effort is to establish industry standards for each species of livestock.
“While we don’t know when FSIS will come out with their Salmonella standards relevant to pork, you can glean some insight from the poultry side that the focus will most likely be pre-harvest,” says Marie Bucko, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) science and technology advisor.
FSIS announced the launch of outreach to seek stakeholder feedback on specific Salmonella control and measurement strategies, including these pilot projects, in poultry slaughter and processing establishments.
“FSIS is going to focus on the Salmonella serotypes and the virulence factors that pose the greatest threat to public health,” Bucko says. “With these FSIS pilot programs, a key component FSIS is encouraging are pre-harvest controls to reduce Salmonella contamination coming into the slaughterhouse. FSIS shared that the data generated from these pilots will be used to determine if a different approach could result in a reduction of Salmonella illness in consumers.”
FSIS is inviting poultry slaughter and processing establishments to submit proposals for pilot projects that will test different control strategies for Salmonella contamination in poultry products. Pilot projects will last for a defined period of time, during which establishments will experiment with new or existing pathogen control and measurement strategies and share data collected during the pilots with FSIS.
“We have the opportunity see firsthand how FSIS is working with the poultry industry, which allows us to prepare on the pork side. So, we look forward to having a seat at the table to ensure we continue giving a voice for our NPPC stakeholders and pork industry,” she says.
What Can Producers Do?
Although Bucko says it’s too early to tell if the industry should be concerned about these standards, there are steps producers can continue to take to help minimize Salmonella issues.
“The biggest thing we can continue to do is enforce biosecurity protocols at our production facilities, working closely with our veterinarians to ensure we have these strong biosecurity measures in place,” Bucko says. “Certainly, there’s a multitude of steps where these pathogens can be contracted or be transmitted. That can range anywhere from pre-harvest to consumer, and we can’t lose sight of what it looks like in lairage or in the processing facilities.”
Some research shows Salmonella can be reduced through vaccination.
“The goal of vaccines, in general, should be to reduce disease and/or colonization, and therefore reduce shedding,” Bucko says.
She points out most Salmonella vaccines for swine only protect against one or two types of pathogen serotypes. The question on her mind now is which strains will FSIS want to tackle specifically? While some Salmonella vaccines reduce disease in pigs, they may not protect against Salmonella that causes foodborne illness in humans according to USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.
“Industry leaders will continue to keep a sharp eye and a sharp ear to FSIS to see how things progress in the poultry industry,” Bucko says.
“Then, we can draw parallels to make sure we have all the tools at our disposal to make sure our producers are equipped with whatever it is that we need when FSIS comes out with some of the preliminary discussions,” she adds.
Pork Farm Journal | Jennifer Shike | January 07,
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