Production of comestible animal-products has been rapidly changed from
traditional to intensive/industrial. The main criterion for such a
transition was higher meat production achieved with the lowest cost.
Today the results of this development could be documentary viewed.
Especially, pig production has been based on uncontrollable
industrialization of animal feeds and the connection with the
primary plant production has been desolated. Intensive housing
and management systems without any respect to animal welfare and
environment protection created serious and difficult to treat
disease syndromes and complexes, thus increasing the use of
antimicrobial/antibiotic agents in pigs. As a consequence
consumers started not to trust animal products. Even the most favorable
approaches show that confidence of animal products will be further
undermined in the future. This paper highlights the necessity of
application of comprehensive on-farm intervention veterinary
strategies for the assurance of safety and quality in pork production.
During the last 50 years the production of comestible animal-products
has been dramatically changed from traditional to intensive/industrial.
Application of intensive breeding systems in pigs was based on high
populated units (terrific "animal-cities"), where extremely high number
of animals are bred under difficult conditions, without any respect to
animal welfare and health. This condition, based only to the attempt of
lowering the cost of production, finally created serious and difficult
to treat disease syndromes and complexes, as well as new diseases, known
as "man made diseases". Therefore, there was a dramatic increase in the
use of antimicrobial/antibiotic agents in pigs, thus leading to unpredictable
consequences for human health. On the other hand uncontrollable industrialization
of animal feed with the use of doubtful but cheep raw materials or recycling
animal by-products in feeding schedules deranged seriously the safety and quality
of pork production.
For the above reasons today's meat production and consumption
have been under heavy criticism. Pig industry, began to recognize
the growing pressure to change from an intensive production driven
to a more consumer and market oriented production; from quantity to
quality. In many countries, but particularly in Europe and North America,
there is an increasing concern among consumers about the origin, the safety
and wholesomeness of their daily food, especially meat. Furthermore other
issues like the link between BSE and human disease, food-borne pathogens,
the extensive use of antimicrobial-antibiotic agents as feed additives and
the risk of bacterial resistance against them, the drug residues problem,
the most recently dioxins and PCB's, environmental concern and animal welfare
concern, have established an untrustworthy communication policy between
animal-food industry and consumers. Despite the fact that many times the
problems have been stirred up by extensive mass media coverage, unambiguously
in the near future the meat industry can only survive the intense international
competition with an optimal market oriented approach to satisfy consumer demands.
A strict integrated quality assurance approach in all parts of the production
process, from "conception to consumption" or from "stable to table", is therefore necessary.
SAFETY AND QUALITY PRINCIPLES IN PORK PRODUCTION
There is no doubt that achievement of safe and high quality pork depends on
elimination of a series of factors which could have a negative influence
on product's safety and intrude oneself into any stage of production, handling
and preservation. Since these factors are multitudinous, it is firstly essential
to control those which are more dangerous, taking care not to increase excessively the
cost of production. The main principles of such a production should be based to more
martinet work protocols applied during pig breeding, slaughter and meat processing.
Veterinarians are now called to respond either to the planning or to the strict
application of product safety and quality programs. According to experience gained
during last years it is obvious that most of the problems, which created
questionableness for meat safety and quality, arise from the field of primary
production. It is, therefore, necessary, to revise the applied procedures,
starting from the farm. On-farm safety programs should be based onto three
principles: (a) application of protocols in breeding, feeding, hygiene and
management of the animals in order to eliminate the possibility of pork
sticking, (b) verification of the effectiveness of such applications and (c)
control of critical points during production from recognized third parts.
FIELDS OF APPLYING ON-FARM INTERVENTION STRATEGIES
1. Application of creditable breeding programs
Pork quality depends on pig genetic background, feeding,
slaughter procedures and preservation methods. As far as the
genetic background is concerned, specific protocols relating
to genetic selection and breeding should be applied in the farms.
Concerning fatteners the goals achieved should be: at least 80% of
the fatteners to be negative by using halothane test and their
carcasses to obtain a pH24>6.0, while the percentage of Hampshire's
participation to be less than 50%.
2. Hygiene interventions in the field of pig feeding
Pig feeding is a crucial field to achieve safety
for the consumer in pork production. Three main criteria should be used in this area:
a) Elimination of animal by-products as raw materials in pig feeding, since
these are extremely sensitive to contamination with pathogens and easily undergo
chemical changes which lead to the presence of undesirable agents like hyperoxides, etc.
b) Utilization of plants without residues of chemicals used in agriculture,
as well as use of raw materials of natural origin, like acidfiers, probiotics,
origanum essential oils, enzymes, organic acid mixtures, etc. which have been
found to improve health status and performance of pigs. Moreover, the use of
toxin-free and especially mycotoxin-free plants is essential to ensure safety
in pork production.
c) Elimination of the use of antibiotics/antibacterials in feeds.
In order to maximize the possibility to avoid dangers originated from
feed, a "safety and quality certificate" has to be instituted for animal
feed manufactures and distributors, throughout the whole feed production
procedure, with very hard judicatory punishments for defaulters.
3. Control of swine diseases with the lowest use of antibacterial/antibiotic agents
Elimination of the use of antibacterial/antibiotic agents in pigs
should be based to the appropriate application of protocols relating to:
a) All-in all-out systems
b) Frequent disinfections of animals, buildings and equipment with safe disinfectants
c) Use of the proper vaccination programs
d) Use of the proper metaphylaxis program, especially in weaners.
The constant veterinary supervision of the farm is therefore
necessary and veterinarians should keep a detailed file relating
to any pharmaceutical agent used, which has to be available at any
time to the relative veterinary authorities. Veterinarians and farmers
should also have the responsibility against the law for any breach of
the rules concerning use of pharmaceutical agents.
4. Elimination of food-borne pathogens in pigs
Food-borne disease remains a significant cause of mortality and
economic burden, and due to continual exposure to media reports
of food-borne disease outbreaks and food product recalls, consumers
are increasingly demanding higher quality and safer foods. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS)
estimates that the contamination of meat and poultry products with pathogenic
bacteria results annually in as many as 4.000 deaths and 5.000.000 illnesses (1996).
The primary bacterial pathogens associated with these numbers are salmonella,
campylobacter, E.coli 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica
and Trichinella spiralis. However, food-borne illnesses originate from a variety
of sources, and it is not currently possible to estimate the proportion of human
food-borne disease due to foods of swine origin.
Nowadays, it is well appreciated that producing safe and wholesome
food can only be assured if food safety practices occur throughout the
production continuum from "stable to table". Nevertheless, beginning the
production chain with raw materials that carry pathogens at the lowest
levels possible allows us to improve the effectiveness of food safety
procedures at subsequent production levels.
So it is quite clear today that the initial responsibility to minimize
the contamination levels of pathogenic bacteria and all other potential
hazards on raw meat and poultry starts with the farm.
5. Application of animal welfare in swine production
Until recently, consumer demand appeared to be a simple one: for
meat of satisfactory quality at an acceptable price. However, with increase
public concern in many countries about animal welfare in some of the systems
in which meat is being produced, consumer demand seems to have been changed.
Nowadays, consumers are interested in and aware of the way the animals are
handled during production, transport and slaughter. It is true, that a lot
of work in this area needs to be done. Only a few countries have animal welfare
programs for the swine industry. The role of the veterinarians is crucial as
they can help the industry make these programs realistic and profitable.
6. Rodent and insect control in pig-farms
Rodent and insect control are vital to the control of
biological hazards on the farm. Rodents have been implicated
in the transmission of more than 25 diseases both to human and
pig. They spread disease into uncontaminated areas via their droppings, feet,
urine, saliva, or blood. Rodent control will require the elimination of hiding
spots in and around the facility, e.g. garbage, broken equipment, boxes. Feed
should be stored in secure containers to reduce the attraction of rodents and
avoid contamination. Installation of rodent barriers and guard strips on doors
and the use of rodenticides may be required. Insect control requires the use of
good sanitary habits and the removal of animal waste. Excessive amounts of
moisture and garbage must be eliminated.
7. Control of agents influencing health effects of work in swine confinement buildings
Confinement buildings are commonly used to raise pigs in all over the world.
However, this environment has been associated with a variety of human health
concerns. Respiratory complaints and other problems related to inhaling dust
and gases are common in those who have long- term employment in these settings.
The main problems are an asthma-like syndrome and bronchitis with mild pulmonary
function changes and signs of airways inflammation. Mucous membrane irritation
syndrome and organic dust toxic syndrome are also seen. It is therefore necessary
to establish a regular medical control of the farm workers. Moreover, it is well
known that poor environmental quality has also an adverse affect on both health and
productivity of pigs (the growth rate can be reduced by more than 9% when pigs are
exposed to 50 ppm ammonia). It is believed that all of these can be prevented or
reduced by improving air quality (reduce ammonia, organic dust, endotoxins and improving
HACCP PRINCIPLES: PROPOSED TOOLS FOR APPLYING ON-FARM INTERVENTION STRATEGIES
The above mentioned goals can only be achieved by continuous improvement
in hazard identification and prevention at the farm level with the implementation
of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Systems (HACCP).
The main principles of HACCP systems are the following:
1. Hazard analysis inspection, including biological, chemical and
physical conditions that could jeopardize the safety of foods.
2. Identify CCPs at which control can be applied and a food safety hazard
can be prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.
3. Establish critical limits for each CCP.
4. Establish CCP monitoring requirements.
5. Define the corrective action when monitoring indicates a problem.
6. Establish effective record-keeping procedures to document the HACCP system.
7. Establish verification procedures for the HACCP system.
An effective at farm-level safety program will lead to improved food
safety at subsequent production levels. If producer groups standardize
their on-farm procedures, have them certified by third party certification
entities, and if the pigs which are produced under the defined good management
practice rules, can be separated from the ordinary, the value of the final product
can only increase.
The industry needs guarantees about the health status of the
pigs and the use of drugs in the production stage, because it
is impossible to monitor each individual pig at slaughter for
drug residues and zoonotic diseases. The producer and the
veterinarian of the 21st century must be able to provide
such guarantees. Pork producers who want to meet the consumer
demands of future markets create quality assurance systems. An effective
data flow between farms, slaughter houses and veterinarians (who are best
able to apply the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point)
is crucial for such systems. Furthermore, swine industry could benefit
from veterinary expertise in risk communication to consumers.
A revision of the current policy concerning all stages of pork production
is absolutely necessary for a viable swine industry in the future. Preventive
veterinary medicine and hygiene on-farm strategies based on HACCP system procedures
should be further developed. Farms supervised by a specifically authorized
veterinarian and controlled by an official veterinary authority, labeling the
final product, could be the most reliable way to achieve pork safe for consumer's health.