Scientific Opinion on the electrical requirements for waterbath stunning equipment applicable for poultry


Panel on Animal Health and Welfare
EFSA Journal
EFSA Journal 2012;10(6):2757 [80 pp.].
Panel Members
Anette Bøtner, Donald Broom, Marcus G. Doherr, Mariano Domingo, Jörg Hartung, Linda Keeling, Frank Koenen, Simon More, David Morton, Pascal Oltenacu, Fulvio Salati, Mo Salman, Moez Sanaa, James M. Sharp, Jan A. Stegeman, Endre Szücs, Hans-H. Thulke, Philippe Vannier, John Webster and Martin Wierup

The Panel wishes to thank the members of the Working Group: David Morton, Don Broom, Jörg Hartung and John Webster for the preparatory work on this scientific opinion and the hearing experts: Bert Lambooij and Mohan Raj, and EFSA staff: Karen Mackay, Andrea Gervelmeyer, Eleonora Bastino, Chiara Fabris, Gabriele Zancanaro, Diane Lefebvre and Elisa Aiassa and Jane Richardson, for the support provided to this scientific opinion.

Opinion of the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel
On request from
European Commission
Question Number
23 May 2012
Published in the EFSA Journal
14 June 2012
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma, Italy

The Commission requested that EFSA review relevant new scientific references on electrical stunning of poultry and to recommend, if necessary, new electrical requirements applicable for waterbath stunning equipment. A systematic literature review was conducted to determine those electrical parameters that would deliver an effective stun so that birds would be rendered unconscious and insensible until death. Inspection data from slaughterhouse inspections conducted both in Member States in and non-Member States were included. Many of the published studies did not allow a comprehensive analysis due to different study designs and incomplete data. There are few observational studies in abattoirs to determine the numbers of birds that are effectively stunned, however, the inspection data from the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) did not identify major problems but, for practical reasons, they used non-EEG (electro-encephalogram) methods to ascertain the effectiveness of a stun. At the present time, an EEG is the most reliable indicator of unconsciousness and insensibility. Clinical somatosensory indicators are not as reliable. The aim of a stunning system is to achieve a 100% effective stun, and the most effective electrical parameters in use can achieve an effectiveness of up to 96% as measured using EEG ascertainment methods (100% were reported as unconscious using non-EEG methods). It is recommended that the Regulation should indicate minimum current for each bird, frequency and current type as well as the wave characteristics - duty cycle and waveform. There should be better surveillance and monitoring of the electrical parameters in use at abattoirs and, in addition, methods that allow the accurate measurement of actual electrical current flowing through each bird should be further developed. Research on effective stunning should be validated by the measurement of EEG activity and related to clinical measures that are easier to use in practice.

Waterbath, electrical stunning parameters, poultry, slaughter, insensibility
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