A systematic quantification of foodborne hazards in abnormal and normal tissues of pig carcases was undertaken to provide a risk-based assessment of the effectiveness of traditional organoleptic meat inspection. A total of 36,059 pigs, representing all major pig-producing areas and systems in Australia, were inspected on a seasonal basis at three abattoirs over 12 months. The prevalence of grossly detectable abnormalities of possible food-borne disease significance was recorded. A subset of the grossly detectable abnormalities, together with tissues classified by inspection as normal (controls) were submitted for the detection of a broad range of food-borne hazards. The potential exposure of consumers to hazards in fresh pork was characterised as the number of carcases per 10,000 containing hazards in selected tissues. The results indicated that the level of exposure of consumers to microbiological hazards in fresh pork is unlikely to be reduced significantly by the detection and removal of gross abnormalities in the tissues examined. On the basis of carcase throughput, the rate of contamination of normal lymph nodes was commonly 100 times higher, and no hazards were isolated from two types of grossly abnormal nodes. While further processing, cooking and handling may alter the exposure characterisation, the study nevertheless identifies the proportional contribution of abnormal and normal tissues to risks to consumers and clearly identifies the need for consideration of 'visual only' inspection in the re-evaluation of traditional inspection procedures.
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