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Egg Producers May Struggle to Control Salmonella

by 5m Editor
22 December 2011, at 10:45am

EU - Egg producers in the European Union may struggle to control Salmonella when the EU ban on battery cages comes into force in January 2012, according to Anitox Corporation.

Alan Doyle, BVMS, MRCVS, the company’s European Business Development Manager, emphasises that despite data1 published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2011 showing that Salmonella control programmes in laying birds have been highly successful (17 Member States met their 2009 reduction target for flocks of laying hens and the overall incidence of Salmonella in countries which operate control programmes fell from 3.5 per cent in 2008 to 3.2 per cent in 2009) the industry simply cannot afford to be complacent.

Mr Doyle said: "The need for caution was highlighted a recent study2 in Belgium to quantify the effects of housing systems on the spread of Salmonella infection within layers and internal egg contamination. The study found that, compared with traditional battery cages and furnished cages, aviary and floor housing systems pose a greater risk. Bird-to-bird transmission of Salmonella enteritidis was slightly higher, while a higher number of eggs were contaminated internally by Salmonella.

"The results suggest that a shift from conventional to alternative housing systems for laying hens should be accompanied by a keen concern for optimising Salmonella surveillance programmes. It is critical, therefore, that existing control plans are maintained and additional care is taken to minimise within-flock transmission of Salmonella, which is a persistent problem that cannot be entirely eradicated and poses a major threat to humans who consume contaminated animal products.

"EFSA identified Salmonella spp. as the major hazard for microbial contamination of feed and although feedstuffs for layer, broiler, duck or turkey parent/grandparent stock are sometimes heat-treated in an attempt to reduce the problem, this process may not kill all pathogens. It also significantly increases the cost of the feed, has a high carbon footprint, can damage vitamins/nutrients and has no residual effect, so unless other measures are implemented, re-contamination can occur in the mill, during transport or on the farm. In another recent study3, the authors found that non-pelleted feed e.g. mash, was eight times more likely to be contaminated (with Salmonella) than pelleted compound feed."

A formaldehyde-based feed treatment was found by EFSA to provide a viable alternative to heat-treatment, both initially and, crucially, in preventing recontamination of feed. DEFRA-funded research which investigated the treatment of animal feeds with various organic acids and formaldehyde-based products also identified large variations in efficacy and effects in masking the presence of Salmonella during culture.

The treatment which gave by far the best ‘kill’ of Salmonella in feed was a liquid antimicrobial bacteriacide containing 33 per cent formaldehyde, propionic acid and natural terpenes, a formula identical to Anitox Termin-8®, which sits within the European Biocide Regulations. It provides effective control of both gram-negative bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli, together with gram-positive bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus.Termin-8® also controls spore-forming bacteria such as Clostridium in feeds/feed ingredients, whilst exhibiting residual activity that protects against recontamination for up to 60 days.

"Greater consumer awareness of food safety issues is translating into increasing demand from livestock producers, feed compounders and food processors all over the world for products which improve safety throughout the supply chain," Mr Doyle states. "The Termin-8® pathogen control programme for finished feed and raw materials is increasingly popular and each year more than 25 million tonnes of feed and raw materials are treated with it to ensure that they are pathogen-free, while many feed manufacturers also use Maxi-Mil® to improve the efficiency of their milling operations."

Feed safety is critical

Feed safety is near the top of the list when it comes to implementing an effective biosecurity programme, says Lancashire-based J Rainford & Sons, which is one of the United Kingdom’s leading regional egg producers and in 2010 started specifying that all feed for its own and suppliers’ free-range birds be treated with Termin-8®.

"During the last few years the poultry industry has had to jump through an increasing number of legislative hoops. No-one likes having to comply with even more red tape, but we have to recognise just how important it is for consumers to have confidence in the food products which we produce," emphasises Bill Holmes, Managing Director.

With a laying site and packing station at its 46-acre Hatchwood site in Brindle, near Preston, the company is one of the largest producers/packers in the North West, with 175,000 hens, approximately 18,000 of which are free-range. Working with a number of contracted producers, the business produces and packs up to 2.5 million eggs every week. In addition to Lion Quality eggs, which it supplies in own label packs to several major and some regional retailers throughout the North West, the company also markets its own Pennine-brand eggs ‘from the Hills and Vales of the Pennines’. Of the 7000 cases which are sent out each week, one-third are produced by the company’s own birds, the remainder being from birds owned by contract producers in the North West.

"As part of the National Control Programme for Salmonella we are constantly working towards improvements in pathogen control standards and, within our belt-and-braces approach to this aspect of production, now specify that all feed for our free-range birds is treated with Termin-8®," Mr Holmes states. "We have taken this approach because we feel that birds kept in this type of environment are more likely to pick-up pathogen infections. It is simply one more weapon in our bio-security armoury and we view the additional cost as additional insurance for our business."

BOCM Pauls, which supplies Rainfords, has been incorporating Termin-8® into its feed for many years and has experienced increasing interest from forward-thinking producers, both in response to greater legislative pressures and because they recognise the need to protect their businesses against the risks from Salmonella and other pathogens. Andrew Fothergill, National Adviser – Poultry, states: "Adopting a head-in-the-sand mentality is not an option when it comes to dealing with Salmonella. Although the risk of an outbreak might be small, should that risk become a reality it could quickly turn into a major catastrophe, which could put producers out of business.

"The need to have hygienic animal feed is one step towards achieving healthy food products and to support that objective we have made substantial investments in our mills. We also encourage producers to have feed treated with Termin-8®, which we believe is the most efficacious on the market as it provides a very effective, pro-active, cost-effective solution and is an investment in ensuring that our clean, safe, bio-secure feed is afforded even greater protection against pathogenic organisms. Termin-8® is already widely used in breeder diets, because it is essential to do everything possible to protect valuable stock, but we believe that it is also very relevant for commercial flocks, as layer feed is not routinely heat-treated. Providing birds with cleaner feed will help to ensure that they are healthier and perform better."

BOCM PAULS operates 13 mills and uses Termin-8® at all its sites which produce pig and poultry feed, not only because of the proven efficacy of the product from the customer’s perspective but also because of the comprehensive support service which Anitox provides, from supplying the product and application equipment to servicing and maintaining it, ensuring correct application and feed testing.