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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: HANDLING AND TRANSPORT STRESS INTERACTIONS WITH PATHOGEN BIOLOGY IN SWINE AND CATTLE Title: Incidence of foodborne pathogens in organic swine

Authors
item Rostagno, Marcos
item Ebner, Paul -

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: February 22, 2011
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Organic products are often purchased because it is believed that they are healthier and safer than conventional products. However, the management of public health risks associated with organic animal production is difficult because high biosecurity levels often are not feasible. Although organic animal husbandry is well defined, the regulations still allow a considerable degree of freedom, resulting in a large number of producers with their own ideas and practices. Production systems that are considered more animal welfare friendly allow outdoor access for farm animals, and therefore, may create new or reintroduce old public health risks. For instance, a more open farming system can result in increased risk of transfer of zoonotic pathogens to livestock, negatively affecting food safety. In organic pork production systems, the animals are particularly at risk of parasitism, due to outdoor rearing and the ban of prophylactic medication. Despite the limited number of comparative pre-harvest food safety data, it is clear that organic production systems are associated with lower frequency of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. However, organic animal husbandry has been strongly criticized by veterinarians, claiming that organic livestock often are not treated properly when sick, because of longer withdrawal times or complete restrictions by the organic standards. Although there have been many investigations into the occurrence and transmission of microbial pathogens in conventional systems, little relevant information is available regarding organic livestock. Currently, there is no clear evidence regarding the incidence of bacterial foodborne pathogens in organic versus conventional pork production systems. Absence of data, however, does not translate into absence of hazard. Based on the current review, it is impossible to draw general conclusions regarding pre-harvest food safety risks in organic versus conventional pork production systems. Therefore, the question persists: Is organic pork safer? As long as there is not enough epidemiological evidence, it is very difficult to answer this question. From the limited number of published data, it seems that there is no clear evidence that organically produced food of animal origin is safer than conventionally produced food, and vice-versa. However, it is critical to keep in mind that whatever pork production system is considered, the entire process from the pigs living in the farm to the pork product marketed and prepared in the home of the consumer should be analyzed and discussed in relation to the overall aims of pork safety.

Technical Abstract: Organic products are often purchased, because it is believed that they are healthier and safer than conventional products. However, the management of public health risks associated with organic animal production is difficult, because high biosecurity levels often are not feasible. Although organic animal husbandry is well defined, the regulations still allow considerable degree of freedom, resulting in a large number of producers with their own ideas and practices. Production systems that are considered more animal welfare friendly allow outdoor access to farm animals, and therefore, may create new or reintroduce old public health risks. For instance, a more open farming system can result in increased risk of transfer of zoonotic pathogens to livestock, negatively affecting food safety. In organic pork production systems, the animals are particularly at risk of parasitism, due to outdoor rearing and ban of prophylactic medication. Despite the limited number of comparative pre-harvest food safety data, it is clear that organic production systems are associated with lower frequency of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. However, organic animal husbandry has been strongly criticized by veterinarians, claiming that organic livestock often are not treated properly when sick, because of longer withdrawal times or complete restrictions by the organic standards. Although there have been many investigations into the occurrence and transmission of microbial pathogens in conventional systems, little relevant information is available regarding organic livestock. Currently, there is no clear evidence regarding the incidence of bacterial foodborne pathogens in organic versus conventional pork production systems. Absence of data, however, does not necessarily translate into absence of hazard. Based on the current review, it is impossible to draw general conclusions regarding pre-harvest food safety risks in organic versus conventional pork production systems. Therefore, the question persists: Is organic pork safer? As long as there is not enough epidemiological evidence, it is very difficult to answer this question. From the limited number of published data, it seems that there is no clear evidence that organically produced food of animal origin is safer than conventionally produced food, and vice-versa. However, it is critical to keep in mind that whatever pork production system is considered, the entire process from the pigs living in the farm to the pork product marketed and prepared in the home of the consumer should be analyzed and discussed in relation to the overall aims of pork safety.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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