Poland is trying to tackle the high and increasing number of alerts linked to Salmonella in poultry products made in the country.

DG Sante, the European Commission’s unit for policy on food safety and health, looked to see if production and placing on the market of poultry was in compliance with EU legislation and reported mostly positive findings.

The audit in Poland in March and April 2019 included visits to a regional veterinary laboratory, six slaughterhouses and seven cutting plants. Low-risk establishments are subject to controls once every 12 months; medium-risk sites have them once every six months and high-risk plants once every three months.

Official sampling detects Salmonella more often
Between January 2016 and March 2019, 181 Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications (44 in 2016; 50 in 2017; 65 in 2018 and 22 until March) concerned Poland and Salmonella in poultry meat products.

A staggering 170 RASFF notices involved Salmonella and poultry meat from Poland in 2019 with serovars including Enteritidis, Typhimurium, Infantis, Newport, Kentucky and Bredeney.

Based on information provided by authorities for the first half of 2018, if Salmonella is present, the probability to detect it in company sampling is three times smaller than during official sampling. These data indicate for the second half of 2018 a 2.5 times smaller probability.

Authorities have put in place special official sampling procedures at slaughterhouse level to verify the reliability of businesses own-check sampling, which gives much lower rates of Salmonella detection. They have also revised approved private labs to find the root-cause for the increase in RASFF notifications.

The National Veterinary Research Institute (PIWet Puławy) inspected seven private labs doing tests for poultry slaughterhouses. After these checks, five had approvals for testing for Salmonella spp. withdrawn.

Although actions for following up RASFF notifications and food incidents were prompt and comprehensive they were mostly not effective in preventing reintroduction of Salmonella in the poultry meat processing chain, according to the audit report.

A previous audit highlighted deficiencies in application of national measures in low volume production establishments; sanitary shortcomings at site level not detected during authority inspections; insufficient supervision and control in use of food additives and labelling of mechanically separated meat; and to actions taken by authorities in cases of positive results in official Salmonella testing.

In the latest visit, at one slaughterhouse for water fowl and broilers with a cutting plant and a meat products establishment, the audit team noted approved capacities did not permit adequate cleaning and disinfection or provide the required working space for hygienic performance of operations.

Also, the last amendment of an approval decision in March 2018 allowed the company to increase slaughter and processing capacity despite several RASFF notifications due to Salmonella and one due to Campylobacter in 2017 and 2018.

Authorized veterinarians pay problems
According to official sampling data from 2017, 1,119 batches of fresh poultry meat including carcasses were analyzed for Salmonella spp. of which 118 were non-compliant as 55 tested positive for Salmonella Enteritidis or Typhimurium.

The regional official lab analyzed 780 official poultry meat product samples for microbiological parameters in 2018 and 107 were non-compliant.

In two poultry meat product plants visited there were serious structural and hygiene requirements which had not been detected or corrected by any level of authority controls.

Decreasing numbers of official staff, their low salaries, and production related remuneration for authorized veterinarian’s impact on enforcement of EU legislation, according to the audit report.

The audit team were told the number of authorized veterinarians involved in official controls of meat establishments was 3,318 in 2018 and remained constant between 2016 and 2018. However, in the same period the number of permanent official veterinarians decreased by 141, most of them (90) in the districts, from 2,172 in 2016 to 2,031 in 2018.

One food safety official had to supervise 45 approved establishments with minimum frequency of controls from one to four times a year and one approved for export to the U.S. requiring one monthly audit/two days and 262 food entities. The official also has to participate in regional level audits of two days every three months and to supervise 30 AVs assigned in the district.

Authorized veterinarians are paid based on the number of animals inspected or the amount of meat introduced to the cutting plant they supervise. If the establishment is stopped for any reason, they are not paid for this period. This payment system undermines their independence in situations where the required enforcement measures to be taken on the spot would include stopping slaughter operations.

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