More than half of Norwegian slaughterhouses for small animals such as sheep and goats do not meet basic hygiene standards, according to state food safety authority Mattilsynet. Inspectors found that they run the risk of making people ill with meat contaminated with bacteria from animal intestines.
Numerous slaughterhouses in Norway were found to risk meat contamination by not removing animals’ intestines and stomachs according to industry procedures for separation of “clean” and “risky” meat. Poor hand hygiene and lack of disinfection usage were also found in many slaughterhouses visited by the Mattilsynet inspectors.
“We see that some slaughterhouses do not follow regulations or their own industry guidelines to a good enough standard,” stated Hallgeir Herikstad, regional director of Mattilsynet in Rogaland and Agder, in a press release this week. He admitted that Mattilsynet also isn’t good enough at following up cases when finding questionable or unacceptable conditions at slaughterhouses.
A priority in 2013
Herikstad has been responsible for a project that charts conditions at Norwegian slaughterhouses. He said the project would remain a priority through 2013, after a whopping 58 percent of slaughterhouses were given orders to improve conditions related to hygiene.
Herikstad said the industry is responsible for its own hygiene and that they produce food that is safe for consumers to eat, but that Mattilsynet needs to step up its work against poor hygiene.
“Through this project we have developed a method for supervising hygiene during slaughtering that we think will make Mattilsynet more uniform when dealing with unacceptable conditions,” he said.
Result of fatal illness
The project is rooted in the E.coli outbreak in 2006 when a child died and 18 people fell seriously ill. Cured meat from lamb turned out to be the source of the outbreak, and Mattilsynet received massive criticism for its poor handling of the case. It took two months from the time the first person fell ill until the meat product responsible was pulled from the stores. Since then, new knowledge has revealed that potentially dangerous E.coli bacteria can be found in around 18 percent of Norwegian sheep.
“This means that E.coli can also be found in our food if hygiene during slaughtering is not good enough,” according to the Mattilsynet official.
Nortura, Norway’s leading supplier of meat and eggs, told public broadcaster NRK that they invest heavily in technology and training to make sure hygiene meets standards. “Focus on food safety has never been sharper than in the last few years,” Ellen Flø Skagen, head of information at Nortura,told NRK. She added that no infections linked to sheep and goats have been reported since 2006.
“But we always aim to improve ourselves, and Mattilsynet’s report is important,” Skagen told NRK. She said, though, that slaughtering is a “biological process” that can never be 100 percent clinically clean.
Views and News from Norway/Aasa Christine Stoltz
Please support our news service. Readers in Norway can use our donor account. Our international readers can click on our “Donate” button: