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Assessment of the feasibility of serological monitoring and on-farm information about health status for the future meat inspection of fattening pigs

Felin, Elina, Hälli, Outi, Heinonen, Mari, Jukola, Elias, Fredriksson-Ahomaa, Maria
Preventive veterinary medicine 2019 v.162 pp. 76-82
European Union, Salmonella, Toxoplasma gondii, Yersinia enterocolitica, arthritis, biosecurity, blood sampling, carcass condemnation, clinical examination, decontamination, fattening farms, finishing, food chain, food safety, health status, lameness, monitoring, observational studies, pathogens, risk reduction, seroprevalence, slaughter, swine, tail biting, Finland
Current macroscopic meat inspection cannot detect the most common pork-borne pathogens (Salmonella spp., Yersinia enterocolitica and Toxoplasma gondii). Furthermore, food chain information (FCI) may not provide sufficient data for visual-only inspection, which is supposed to be the common way of inspection of pigs in the European Union. Our observational study aimed to evaluate the serological monitoring and the clinical evaluation of on-farm health status of pigs and assess the feasibility of these data as part of the FCI in meat inspection. We studied the serological status of Salmonella spp., Yersinia spp. and T. gondii in pigs during the fattening period. Additionally, we evaluated the association between on-farm health status and meat inspection findings. On 57 indoor fattening pig farms in Finland, we collected blood samples (mean of 20 pigs/farm) and assessed the on-farm health (coughing, tail biting, lameness) at the end of the fattening period. We visited 34 of these farms also at the beginning of the fattening for sampling and on-farm health evaluation of the same pigs. Meat inspection results were obtained after slaughter for all 57 farms. Salmonella seroprevalence was low at the end of the fattening period: it was 17.6%, 10.6% or 1.9%, with the cut-off values of OD15% (recommended by the test manufacturer), OD20% (used by Danish monitoring programme) and OD40% (used by German monitoring programme), respectively. The overall seroprevalence of Salmonella spp. and Yersinia spp. increased significantly (P < 0.001) during the fattening period (from 8.1% to 17.2% and from 30.3% to 72.3%, respectively), while the seroprevalence of T. gondii remained low (<1%). The within-farm seroprevalences of Salmonella spp. and Yersinia spp. differed significantly between the farms and this farm-level serological data could be used as FCI for risk-based decisions to improve food safety. Such potentially feasible decisions could include additional carcass testing, carcass decontamination, carcass processing, slaughtering arrangements and improved biosecurity measures at the farm. However, risk mitigation targets and procedures must be carefully adjusted for each pathogen regarding also economic aspects. Tail biting observed on farm was associated with partial carcass condemnations and arthritis at slaughter. This information could be included in the FCI and used when making decisions regarding meat inspection procedure: visual-only or additional inspections.