Belgium has joined a pilot project looking at the accuracy of Salmonella testing in poultry flocks.

The Netherlands received permission from the European Commission to study to what extent initial positive Salmonella results can be confirmed during verification testing.

Belgium is adopting the protocol from the trial in the Netherlands to achieve comparable results, said Animal Health Care Flanders (DGZ).

Since the beginning of 2020, a confirmation test may no longer be carried out in European countries such as Belgium because of a stricter interpretation of the regulations. Previously, this could be requested when a flock tested positive for one of the target serotypes in laying or breeding poultry. A confirmatory test can now only be done where the positive result of the control sample is considered unreliable.

Past verification testing regularly found no Salmonella during additional sampling. The Dutch study is trying to see if the initial results could be false positives and if the second test findings are reliable. The aim is to obtain more certainty about the presence or absence of Salmonella.

Conditions for taking part
The poultry sector has called for the reintroduction of verification testing because of the major impact a positive finding and related control measures can have.

In the Netherlands, poultry farmers who find specific types of Salmonella and have not given antibiotics to the affected flock can participate in the project under certain conditions. Additional samples will be taken and tested; if they are negative, the suspicion of Salmonella will be lifted. If they are positive, standard procedures will apply.

If the farmer chooses to participate, an NVWA inspector will visit the site to take samples from the suspected area and all other houses at the company. The first sampling occurs immediately after the report, and the second sampling occurs 14 days later. Samples are examined for Salmonella by Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR).

In Belgium, if a selected type of Salmonella is found on a farm, a local control unit of the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) will inform the poultry farmer about the project and conditions for participation.

After agreeing to participate in the first investigation, an officer from DGZ will sample all stables at the location, which will be repeated two weeks later. The subsequent sampling is carried out by the company veterinarian, who sends samples to the DGZ laboratory.

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