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Robert Huey, vice-president of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, explains how European moves to modernise the process of meat inspection aim to protect the consumer from politics, prejudice and penny pinching as well as from meatborne infections, providing new opportunities for farm animal vets
DURING the mid-19th century, progress in medical sciences led to a better understanding of the role played by meatborne infections in human disease and to the development, particularly in Germany, of a systematic inspection routine for the carcases and offal of cattle, sheep and pigs. This involved the basic principles of visual inspection of surfaces, and palpation and incision of tissues, particularly lymph nodes, to detect ‘abnormalities’. Initially, these abnormalities primarily included abscesses, tuberculous lesions, parasitic cysts and unusual colours, consistencies and odours. The ‘Handbuch der Fleischbeschau’ by Robert von Ostertag was first published in 1892 and subsequently translated into English, by Wilcox, in 1904. Within a decade, Ostertag's system had become established as the recognised standard worldwide to identify meat considered unfit for human consumption and to carry out surveillance for animal health conditions.
Over the past 30 years, it has become apparent to most authorities on the subject, and to government and international organisations such as the Codex Alimentarius of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Health Organization, that the procedures that have served public and animal health well for over a century are in need of a radical overhaul. The need for change has been championed by recognised authorities in meat hygiene worldwide: Blackmore (1983), Hathaway and others (1987), Berends and others (1993), Johnston (1994) and many others. However, it is essential that any alterations to the existing systems are based on sound scientific principles of meat hygiene and risk analysis, and not unduly influenced by …