Dutch authorities have changed the method of controlling Salmonella in certain poultry farms after pressure from the European Commission.

Carola Schouten, minister for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, told the lower house of parliament (Tweede Kamer) about the move from the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) in a letter in late January. It impacts companies that are farming hatching eggs.

The EU threatened to stop co-financing the Dutch Salmonella program as the European Commission considered the standard retest process in the Netherlands to be contrary to regulations.

The change means animals from poultry breeding farms are immediately removed and slaughtered if the first control samples are contaminated with Salmonella. Meat from infected animals may be used as long as it is industrially heat treated.

Samples are taken by the farmer as part of the National Salmonella Control Plan that all countries are obliged to implement based on European regulations.

Until now, the NVWA has done a retest as confirmation in such cases. This retest will now only be done in exceptional cases when there is reasonable doubt about accuracy of the first test result.

Impact of change
The expected European co-financing for the Dutch Salmonella control program in 2020 is €2.4 million ($2.6 million) of which €400,000 ($437,000) is for the control of infected breeding companies.

Carola Schouten said it was a shame that European legislation leaves no room for the Dutch method.

“The Netherlands has repeatedly and extensively explained to the Commission that our approach guarantees food safety and at the same time tries to prevent wrongly identified contaminated flocks being unnecessarily prematurely slaughtered.”

Dutch authorities predicted control costs, including compensation for the poultry farmer, will increase on average by just under €700,000 ($765,000) per year but this figure will vary as the number of infections is also different every year.

In 2019, which was considered to be an average year, eight companies with 16 barns were found to be infected with Salmonella. Of these, seven were found to be negative after retesting by NVWA.

The Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) has asked Wageningen University and Research to see whether a different approach can offer comparable guarantees for food safety and reduce the chance that animals have to be removed prematurely.

The Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural Association (LTO) said it was shocked such a measure had been implemented without consulting the sector.

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