Brief Overview of Safepork 2011

Dr. Marcos Rostagno recently attended the 9th International Conference on the Epidemiology and Control of Biological, Chemical and Physical Hazards in Pigs and Pork (Safepork 2011) and graciously provides the following synopsis of the meeting.

The conference was held in Maastricht, The Netherlands, between June 19 and 22, 2011. Over 220 participants from many different countries attended the conference that included 5 keynote, 50 oral, and 79 poster presentations.

Food safety continues to be a priority for the pork industry as well as for the scientific community. During the conference, important topics were discussed in several sessions, including; meat inspection; detection, epidemiology and control of bacterial pathogens; antibiotic resistance and control of antimicrobial use; risk assessment and public health; and others (e.g., MRSA, dioxin, parasites, and HEV). Two very important topics discussed during the conference are worth being highlighted:

- Modernization of Meat Inspection: Although the current meat inspection system still has significant value in detecting and controlling some important hazards related to animal health, animal welfare, and meat quality, some of the current pork safety hazards (e.g., drug residues and microbial pathogens) are not detectable by the current approach. Moreover, there is increasing concern that the traditional manual meat inspection techniques may actually cause cross-contamination with microbial pathogens. It has been suggested that a control system for this type of hazards could include a balanced approach of risk categorization of the pig batches with risk categorization of the abattoirs conducting the slaughter and processing (i.e., a risk-based inspection approach). Such approach would represent more a pork safety assurance rather than meat inspection. Further discussions are certain to occur in the near future.

- The use of antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance in pork production: The topic of antimicrobial resistance has achieved a prominent position on the agenda of many groups. Veterinarians have major responsibility for the prudent use of antimicrobials. The use of these drugs is expected to lead to the best health effect, and simultaneously, to the lowest possible resistance in the animal’s microbial populations. Meeting this requirement is no easy task, and inevitably includes reducing the overall amount of antimicrobials used in food animal production. However, the approach to deal with this challenge should be that instead of asking veterinarians to simply refrain from using antimicrobials, the improvement of the animal’s health (e.g., increased hygiene and biosecurity, effective use of vaccines and vaccination programs, etc.) should in fact be constitute the main target. By optimizing herd health, a reduction of the need for antimicrobials should follow. Paraphrasing Dr. Thomas Blaha during his presentation; producers should be “paying veterinary services for maintaining the animals’ health rather than for curing their diseases”. This concept does not imply that veterinarians do not prioritize the health of the animals under their watch. It simply presents a different perception of how to face the current challenge of controlling antimicrobial use in animal production. Studies presented at the conference used this point of view reporting results on the effects of vaccination programs, not only on the control of targeted pathogens, but also on the subsequent use of antimicrobials on-farm.

The proceedings of the conference are available online at

The next conference will be held in the U.S., in Portland, Maine (September 9 -12, 2013). More information will be made available through the conference’s website,