A new international guidance for establishing negligible risk for trichinae in swine could significantly boost exports of U.S. pork, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
With strong support from the NPPC and the National Pork Board, which provided scientific input, the United Nations’ food-safety standard-setting body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, on July 11 finalized global guidelines that provide a way for countries to define negligible risk for trichinae and establish methods for monitoring risk over time.
“The U.N. guidance will greatly increase confidence in the safety of pork and protect consumer health while facilitating trade,” said NPPC President Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer from Camden, S.C. “In turn, that will help us get more high-value U.S. pork to foreign destinations.”
A number of countries require testing for trichinae as a precondition to accepting exports of fresh chilled U.S. 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 U.S. pork exports by hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Trichinae is nearly non-existent in the U.S. pork supply because of increased knowledge of risk factors, adoption of controlled management practices and thorough biosecurity protocols, but many U.S. 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 U.S. commercial swine herd at 1-in-300 million, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes the U.S. 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 U.S. pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the USDA’s Trichinae Herd Certification programs will be used to create a compartment in the United States, the world’s largest exporter of pork.