brand. Last year, the International Egg Commission
joined the GFSI. But can this kind of initiative maintain
“There is no doubt that there is a need for interna-
tional standards to protect both consumers and, just
as importantly, producers,” says Dr. Lavorgna. “At the
moment it is too easy for countries to block imports by
claiming that they don’t meet their own standards. An
internationally recognised and applied system could
help to ensure that consumers get high quality and safe
products, no matter where they are produced.”
“At the moment, the large retailers are setting the
pace in terms of safety, because they have the most to
lose. What worries me more, are the smaller operations
with no brand equity to protect. Can we trust them not
to bring the wider industry into disrepute?”
Dr. Larvorgna believes that U.S. exporters in particular
have a duty to maintain quality and safety standards in
the face of increasing demand.
“Exporters have a responsibility to the rest of the in-
dustry: if any safety issues are traced back to US exports,
then potentially it can not only damage the credibility of
all U..S exports, but the home market as well.”
According to the FAO, part of the WHO, the devel-
opment of reciprocal sanitary agreements, along with
reduction in trade tariffs, will play a crucial role in shap-
ing the future of the world’s meat trade. 1
Historically, poultry producing companies focused
their food safety efforts based on the tools they had available to them. For the United States, this meant that the
lion’s share of the effort was focused on the processing
plants, utilizing primarily chlorine and other antimicrobial
agents. Meanwhile, the efforts in the EU were focused on
live production areas including fumigation of production
houses and hatcheries with formaldehyde as well as the
reduction of Salmonella and other microbial species in
breeder flocks. Establishment of global standards and
allowable practices based on sound science rather than
the politics of international trade and commerce would
be a major step in the right direction.
But Dr. Lavorgna believes that there is an even more
fundamental issue in food safety.
“Safe food really starts with healthy birds,” he says. “If
you want to meet export standards, or provide a good
quality product to the home market, then the first step is
to make sure that your flock is healthy and disease free.
For example, birds must be given appropriate vaccination and treatments, and all birds should be vetted by a
veterinary professional before slaughter.”
Controlling the levels of potentially pathogenic bac-
teria, such as E. coli, and Salmonella, in the flock using
strategically applied vaccines can significantly reduce
the risk of contamination of meat and eggs. Good
hygiene management practices, including control of
environmental sources of infection, are also essential if
the risk is to be kept as low as possible.
The world’s leading importers of poultry meat are
the Russian Federation, China, Japan and the European
Union. More than a third of U.S exports go to eastern
European countries. Consumers in these markets appreci-
ate the high nutritional value, low fat content, versatility
and value for money that poultry provides compared to
other meats. But consumers can themselves be an issue,
as Dr. Lavorgna explains:
“Consumer behaviour can also be a safety issue. Like
many foods, if meat is not stored or prepared correctly,
then it has the potential to cause illness when it is eaten.
Of course this is beyond the control of producers or re-
tailers, and may be a particular issue in some markets
where consumer awareness and knowledge is not as
good as it could be.”
With the growing global poultry market in mind, what
should the strategy be for US producers?
“The US industry is in a great position to increase
exports and help to meet the growing global demand,”
says Dr Lavorgna. “But we must maintain quality and
safety standards no matter where our products are sent –
one safety scare, anywhere in the world, could do great
damage to our exports and to the home market.
“The first priority is to maintain excellent flock health
and unimpeachable hygiene standards in processing,
packaging, storage and distribution.
“Food scares can do immense damage to spe-
cific sectors of the industry and to individual brands.
Safeguarding the food supply within the USA is a
complex and challenging responsibility, but the industry
generally does an extremely good job.”
Establishment of global standards and acceptable
practices would allow poultry companies to focus on
achieving the desired results by employing the methods
and practices that best fit their specific production chal-
1Poultry, Meat & Eggs. Agribusiness Handbook.
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