A better understanding of potential foodborne disease risks from imported meat products has been set out in a report published by the Food Standards Agency.

Researchers created profiles of 16 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, with prevalence data for Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Trichinella and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

There were difficulties in comparing the countries because of variation in data collection techniques like sampling and testing, language issues in non-English speaking areas, and different applications of control plans regionally.

The work was done by Campden BRI between January 2020 to March 2021 under contract by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to help the authority better understand the international context of imports and food safety control processes for products coming into the UK, now that it has left the European Union with a likely change in trading patterns.

For poultry and meat processing, the basic procedures are largely the same in all nations studied. These steps include on-farm biosecurity practices, animal catching and transport, ante- and post-mortem inspection, slaughter, evisceration, chilling, dressing and packing.

Interventions adopted by countries to ensure food safety include the use of chemical treatments, chilling, inspection and setting microbiological criteria to limit the level of microorganisms on poultry or meat products and to monitor effectiveness of process controls, and the approval of establishments.

Country differences
The United States and Canada had largely the same inspection protocols as the EU, but differences were in chilling times and temperatures and permitted chemicals during carcass washing. Canada has similar chilling requirements to the UK, whereas the United States doesn’t prescribe any specific times or temperatures. Both the United States and Canada allow chemicals in washing water for carcass and cuts. Growth promoters are also permitted in the United States.

Australia and New Zealand have developed a scoring system based on the data collected from chilling processes. Inspection protocols appear to be similar and use of growth promoters is permitted in Australia.

In Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, pathogen reduction treatments were permitted on carcasses. For India, inspection procedures appeared to be similar to the UK and EU. Information on chilling and other intervention steps was limited and out of date.

Other nations looked at were Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine, Botswana and Namibia.

The report cites studies showing the prevalence of Salmonella, STEC and Campylobacter in beef, pork, poultry and lamb in the different countries. It found Trichinella in pork from one Canadian premise in 2013 and 0.01 percent of 5,705 samples tested in the U.S.

Rick Mumford, FSA head of science, evidence and research, said decisions on imported products are based on scientific evidence.

“Although direct global comparisons are very difficult to achieve, it is vitally important that the FSA continues to examine different processes and sources of information so we can improve our own data – helping to provide the very best scientific basis for our independent advice to Government and other partners. It is important to state that if meat is intended for export to the UK it must meet the UK’s import requirements, and this is not about to change.”

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