Scientific Opinion on the public health hazards to be covered by inspection of meat (poultry)
A qualitative risk assessment identified Campylobacter spp., Salmonella spp. and ESBL/AmpC gene-carrying bacteria as the most relevant biological hazards in the context of meat inspection of poultry. As none of these are detected by traditional visual meat inspection, establishing an integrated food safety assurance system, achievable through improved food chain information (FCI) and risk-based interventions, was proposed. This includes setting targets at carcass level and, when appropriate, flock level indicating what should be achieved for a given hazard. Elements of the system would be risk categorisation of flocks based on FCI and classification of abattoirs according to their capability to reduce carcass faecal contamination. It is proposed that post-mortem visual inspection is replaced by setting targets for the main hazards on the carcass, and by verification of the food business operator’s hygiene management, using Process Hygiene Criteria. Chemical substances that might occur in poultry were ranked into four categories of potential concern based on pre-defined criteria. Dioxins, dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls, chloramphenicol, nitrofurans and nitroimidazoles were ranked as being of high potential concern. Chemical substances in poultry, however, are unlikely to pose an immediate or acute health risk for consumers. Sampling for chemical residues and contaminants should be based on the available FCI. Moreover, control programmes should be better integrated with feed controls and regularly updated to include new and emerging substances. Meat inspection is recognised as a valuable tool for surveillance and monitoring of specific animal health and welfare conditions. If visual post-mortem inspection is removed, other approaches should be applied to compensate for the associated loss of information on the occurrence of animal disease and welfare conditions. Extended use of FCI has the potential to compensate for some, but not all, of the information on animal health and welfare that would be lost if visual post-mortem inspection is removed.