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Overview of This Week’s Poultry Industry News

5 April 2012, at 11:22p.m.

ANALYSIS – With perhaps the possible timing in the days before Easter, Germany may be standing on the brink of another dioxin crisis as unacceptably high levels of the toxins have been found in eggs from one organic farm and two smallholdings in North Rhine–Westphalia, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden. With the recommendations for changes to poultry meat inspection in the EU expected in June this year, poultry processing plants in June this year, the industry fears it will be facing added pressure and costs. The EU is preparing to lift its ban on imports of fresh poultry meat from Thailand, which has been in place since bird flu first hit that country.

In the last few days, it has emerged that eggs in the German state of North Rhine–Westphalia (NRW) have been found to be contaminated with dioxins. The alarm was raised when high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were found in eggs from one organic farm in the state. The levels were found to be very high in two of the houses on the farm, which has 25,000 hens and sells its eggs to supermarkets. Subsequently, routine analysis has revealed elevated dioxin levels in eggs from two smallholders who sold directly to the public.

The source of the contamination is under investigation but the supposition must be the feed, now that more than one farm is affected. The fact that these were small–scale and/or organic egg producers highlights that food safety issues can occur on any farming system.

Eggs from affected farms have been withdrawn from sale and the state authorities have made it clear that the health risks from consuming these eggs would be negligible.

German pig and poultry sectors were hit by a major dioxin crisis in late 2010 and 2011, which badly impacted the industries in other EU countries and led to the bankruptcy of the feed ingredient at the source of contamination and EU-wide measures aimed at preventing a recurrence.

Commentators say there are risks inherent in the forthcoming new meat inspection rules in the EU.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is expected to publish its recommendations for changes to meat inspection in poultry processing plants in June this year. This will be followed by changes to the meat inspection regulations for game animals in June 2013.

The recommendations will take a risk–based approach to inspection and will follow the review from the panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW), the panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) and the panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM).

However, there will be concerns with in the different sectors that the new inspection criteria will put added pressure and costs on the industry.

The new recommendations for poultry, beef cattle and other farmed animals will follow the opinion issued in October last year for pig meat inspection.

EU Member States have supported the Commission‘s proposal to lift the restrictions on imports of fresh poultry meat from Thailand from 1 July 2012.

A prolonged drought has been identified as the main cause of a dramatic rise of feed prices in Spain, which have risen 12 per cent since January to €0.33 per kilo.

Research from the UK shows that exposure to stomach acid actually primes Campylobacter. New research at the Institute of Food Research shows that not only does Campylobacter have ways of surviving acid shock, it can also respond and adapt to the acidic environment making it better able to colonise the intestine and enter host cells there. These characteristics highlights how well Campylobacter is adapted to infect humans and help in the search for ways to control this foodborne pathogen, which is associated with the handling or consumption of undercooked poultry meat.

Turning to bird flu news, the H5N1 highly pathogenic form of the disease has hit a commercial poultry farm in Yunnan province in southern China, and new outbreaks of disease have been reported in Nepal and Bangladesh. The low-pathogenic form of the virus was found in game birds (pheasants) in Ireland and in native chickens in Taiwan.

Jackie Linden