New UN Trichinae Safety Guidelines Could Improve US Pork Exports

US - A new international guidance for establishing negligible risk for trichinae in swine could significantly boost exports of US pork, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
calendar icon 15 July 2015
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With strong support from NPPC and the National Pork Board, which provided scientific input, the United Nations’ food-safety standard-setting body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, has finalised global guidelines that provide a way for countries to define negligible risk for trichinae and establish methods for monitoring risk over time.

“The UN guidance will greatly increase confidence in the safety of pork and protect consumer health while facilitating trade,” said NPPC President Dr Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, South Carolina.

“In turn, that will help us get more high-value US pork to foreign destinations.”

A number of countries require testing for trichinae as a precondition to accepting exports of fresh chilled US pork despite the fact that the United States is at negligible risk for the parasite.

Other nations will accept only frozen or cooked pork. Elimination of the trichinae mitigation requirements could increase US pork exports by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Trichinae is nearly non-existent in the US pork supply because of increased knowledge of risk factors, adoption of controlled management practices and thorough biosecurity protocols, but many US trading partners still have concerns over trichinae because of its prevalence in their domestic swine herds, which can result in severe human health issues.

Dr Ray Gamble, past president of the International Commission on Trichinellosis, has estimated the prevalence of trichinae in the US commercial swine herd at 1-in-300 million, and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recognises the US commercial herd as low risk.

The guidance approved by the Codex commission allows countries to establish a negligible risk “compartment,” which must include controlled management conditions for swine herds, ongoing verification of the status of the compartment and a response plan for deviations from negligible risk status.

Two years of data collection verifying negligible risk levels through slaughter surveillance, which consists of random sampling, is required to establish a compartment. Once established, a compartment can be monitored through on-farm audits, surveillance at slaughter or a combination of both.

The US pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus and the US Department of Agriculture’s Trichinae Herd Certification programs will be used to create a compartment in the United States, the world’s largest exporter of pork.

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