Salmonella belongs to the family of Enterobacteriaceae. There are over 2300 Salmonella subtypes of which Salmonella enteritidis and Salmonella typhimurium are often associated with foodborne diseases within the EU. Human salmonellosis cases by S. enteritidis are mainly caused by the consumption of contaminated eggs and poultry meat while S. typhimurium infections usually are due to the consumption of contaminated pork, beef and poultry meat. While the actual contribution of pork-associated salmonellosis in humans varies between countries, it is believed that 20% – 30% of human infections is caused by S. typhimurium from pigs or pork products. As a result, food safety of pork products has become a major focus over the years.
Looking for the source
So, Salmonella is a problem, not only for public health but also for the agricultural sector itself. But how do we know, or rather how do we measure, at which farms salmonella is a problem, how big the problem is and perhaps most importantly where the salmonella comes from? The solution often lies with the source.
Salmonella control can be done by means of blood samples tapped at the slaughter line. Within these blood samples the level of antibodies against Salmonella can be measured. It is however important to realize that these blood tests only tells us something about the risk of salmonella contamination during the slaughter process within a given population. It never determines whether an animal is ill or is sub-clinically secreting Salmonella. There is no SPF status for Salmonella. To still be able to provide insights in the salmonella status of a specific farm, environmental samples can be taken. This method is also not quantitative, but does show where the source of the Salmonella is. People, pests and pigs, but also dogs or cats on a farm; all can be carriers of salmonella and therefore introduce Salmonella. In addition, Salmonella can survive in stables, on tools, equipment etc. and in the manure. Due to high quality standards in feed production introducing Salmonella via the feed is very unlikely.
Measures against Salmonella
There are several measures which can be taken to keep the risk of salmonella low. Introduction can be prevented by good farm hygiene practices, including visitors settlements, consequent water and barn hygiene and good pest control. In addition, farm management factors such as the shifting of piglets within the farrowing pen, blending finishers, specific routes, department-specific clothes etc. play an important role. Finally acids, either through the drinking water or through the liquid feed, contribute to the management of Salmonella. It is important that attention is given to all these assets, a multifactorial problem demands a multifactorial solution!
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