Scientific Opinion on the public health hazards to be covered by inspection of meat from sheep and goats
A risk ranking process identified Toxoplasma gondii and pathogenic verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) as the most relevant biological hazards for meat inspection of sheep and goats. As these are not detected by traditional meat inspection, a meat safety assurance system using risk-based interventions was proposed. Further studies are required on T. gondii and pathogenic VTEC. If new information confirms these hazards as a high risk to public health from meat from sheep or goats, setting targets at carcass level should be considered. Other elements of the system are risk-categorisation of flocks/herds based on improved Food Chain Information (FCI), classification of abattoirs according to their capability to reduce faecal contamination, and use of improved process hygiene criteria. It is proposed to omit palpation and incision from post-mortem inspection in animals subjected to routine slaughter. For chemical hazards, dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls were ranked as being of high potential concern. Monitoring programmes for chemical hazards should be more flexible and based on the risk of occurrence, taking into account FCI, which should be expanded to reflect the extensive production systems used, and the ranking of chemical substances, which should be regularly updated and include new hazards. Control programmes across the food chain, national residue control plans, feed control and monitoring of environmental contaminants should be better integrated. Meat inspection is a valuable tool for surveillance and monitoring of animal health and welfare conditions. Omission of palpation and incision would reduce detection effectiveness for tuberculosis and fasciolosis at animal level. Surveillance of tuberculosis at the slaughterhouse in small ruminants should be improved and encouraged, as this is in practice the only surveillance system available. Extended use of FCI could compensate for some, but not all, the information on animal health and welfare lost if only visual post-mortem inspection is applied.