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US and EU Turn Attention to Poultry Meat Inspection

6 July 2012, at 3:03pm

ANALYSIS - Both in the US and in Europe poultry meat inspection has come to the fore this week.

The US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is to step up its residue testing in meat.

Later this summer, the FSIS will launch a new approach to its testing to protect the public from exposure to harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products.

"The new testing methods will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said.

"By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently."

Through its National Residue programme (NRP), FSIS tests for the presence of chemical compounds, including approved (legal) and unapproved (illegal) veterinary drugs, pesticides, hormones, and environmental contaminants that may appear in meat, poultry, and egg products.

In the EU, the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) has said that scientific opinion suggests that traditional poultry meat inspection may not be enough to fully address the most relevant biological hazards to public health: Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp. and ESBL/AmpC gene-carrying bacteria.

EFSA's opinion that provides a scientific basis for the modernisation of poultry meat inspection proposes that risk-based interventions coupled with the improved use of information shared between farms and abattoirs (known as Food Chain Information) would be more effective.

Such information would also play an important role in identifying animal health and welfare issues.

The authority has concluded that chemical substances found in poultry meat are unlikely to pose an immediate or acute health threat to consumers.

However, in the US poultry producers could be facing some hard times on feed costs.

This week soybean meal futures hit a new all-time high and the continued dry, hot weather has a number of analysts dropping their corn yield estimates rapidly.

One poll has the 2012 yield down by 3.9 bushels or 2.5 per cent from at 153.4 bushels per acre in just the last week.

Allendale Inc. research director Rich Nelson says current July weather forecasts will push the national yield down to nearly 145 bushels per acre.

All this is likely to hit supplies for feed and as agricultural economic analyst Darrel Good has said: "Much of the recent strength in corn prices has been associated with very hot, dry conditions in the central and eastern Corn Belt and indications that yield prospects have been reduced substantially in those areas. As much of the crop in the Corn Belt has or soon will enter the reproductive stage, the market will continue to try to determine production prospects."

In Australia and New Zealand, moves appear to be going ahead to see the start of the phasing out of battery cages for laying hens.

A battery hen farm in Canberra that was raided by animal rights activists in March is to convert its operations to cage-free eggs.

Parkwood Farm will switch to cage-free farming after the ACT government reached an agreement with Pace Farms, which operates site.

However, industry bodies have pointed out that there is not yet an agreement with the government for wholesale conversion to enriched cages in Australia.

In New Zealand, the Minister for Primary Industries is considering the new layer hen code of welfare, which is widely understood to phase out battery cages but allow for colony cages instead.

In the global reports on bird flu, the Mexican government has declared a national animal health emergency in the wake of a new outbreak of bird flu that has affected some 1.7 million fowl, leaving around 870,000 dead.

China's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has reported an outbreak of H5N1 in poultry and the South African veterinary authorities have reported two new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza at commercial ostrich farms located in Western Cape Province