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Ineffectiveness of meat inspection in the detection of Taenia solium cysticerci in pigs slaughtered at two abattoirs in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa

Sithole, Msawenkosi I., Bekker, Johan L., Tsotetsi-Khambule, Ana M., Mukaratirwa, Samson
Veterinary Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports 2019 v.17 pp. 100299
HACCP, Taenia solium, antigens, cysticerci, cysticercosis, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, financial economics, food supply chain, humans, issues and policy, larvae, laws and regulations, meat, meat inspection, production technology, public health, risk, slaughter, slaughterhouses, supply chain, swine, swine production, tapeworms, villages, zoonoses, South Africa
Porcine and human cysticercosis, caused by the larval stage of tapeworm Taenia solium, is a zoonosis in southern Africa and known to be endemic in South Africa, mainly in Eastern Cape Province. No efforts to control or eradicate this parasite have been made, despite the increasing occurrence in most Eastern Cape districts, except for routine meat inspection at local abattoirs. The parasite poses a potentially serious agricultural problem, public health risk and economic loss amongst Eastern Cape smallholder pig production communities. The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of routine meat inspection for the detection of porcine cysticercosis in pigs from rural smallholder/subsistence production systems in Eastern Cape Province villages. The effectiveness of meat inspection, by registered meat inspectors, in the detection of pigs infected with T. solium cysts was assessed and compared with whole carcass dissection as the “gold standard” method. The commercial antigen enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (B158/B160 Ag-ELISA) kit screened all the slaughtered animals. The proportion of pigs found infected with T. solium cysts, as measured by meat inspection, was lower (5%, 9/180) than with carcass dissection (18.9%, 34/180) and B158/B60 Ag-ELISA test (21.6%, 38/176). Four out of 180 carcasses were heavily infested with T. solium cysts, evenly distributed throughout the carcasses, to a level impossible to enumerate. Of the remaining 176 carcasses, approximately 526 cysticerci, distributed at various anatomical regions of the pig, were counted during carcass dissection. Sites with higher cyst counts, such as the back and hind leg, do not form part of the normal meat inspection regime. The level of agreement (Kappa statistic) between dissection (gold standard) and meat inspection of the two districts was negative (−0.1955). There was a slight agreement in the Kappa statistic (0.0328) between dissection and B158/B60 Ag-ELISA. This study confirms that current meat inspection procedures alone are not sufficiently sensitive to detect all cases of porcine cysticercosis at the abattoirs and require modifications, or should be supplemented by other methods. A risk-based meat safety assurance system, such as HACCP, that considers specific food safety aspects before and after the abattoir (point of slaughter) should be followed. Before slaughter, aspects such as origin, husbandry practices and on-farm animal health control should be considered; after slaughter, the abattoir should inform the next entity in the supply chain of the limitations of meat inspections and the real meaning of an “Approval” stamp. New validated testing methods that can be routinely used should be developed, and government should develop policies and legislation that promotes a risk-based meat safety assurance system throughout the food supply chain.