Science, or poetry in motion: Modern pig inspection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced its continued effort to modernize inspection systems through science-based approaches to food safety. USDA is proposing to amend the federal meat inspection regulations to establish a new voluntary inspection system for market hog slaughter establishments called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), while also requiring additional pathogen sampling for all swine slaughter establishments.

The proposed rule also allows innovation and flexibility to establishments that are slaughtering market hogs. Market hogs are uniform, healthy, young animals that can be slaughtered and processed in this modernized system more efficiently and effectively with enhanced process control.

For market hog establishments that opt into NSIS, the proposed rule would increase the number of offline USDA inspection tasks, while continuing 100% FSIS carcass-by-carcass inspection. These offline inspection tasks place inspectors in areas of the production process where they can perform critical tasks that have direct impact on food safety.

There will be a 60-day period for comment once the rule is published in the Federal Register.

To view the proposed rule and information on how to comment on the rule, visit the FSIS website at


Life is a funnel cake — and viruses

Maryn McKenna writes in Mother Jones that the ways that farm kids and their families handle pigs at agricultural fairs put them at risk for novel flu viruses that are circulating among swine, and the close contact between children and show pigs could be a bridge that allows new flu strains to spread widely among humans.

That’s the warning in an analysis just released by the scientific journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk can be reduced, the analysis says, but exhibitors and visitors need to take steps to protect themselves.

“We’re bringing animals and people from multiple, diverse backgrounds into close proximity to each other for a prolonged period of time—these shows can go on for a week or more,” said Dr. Andrew Bowman, an assistant professor at Ohio State University and the senior author on the study. “The analogy I use is kids in preschool: If one brings in something, by the end of a week they’ll all have it.”

In the summer of 2016, 18 kids and adults who were part of families that showed pigs came down with novel strains of flu after attending seven fairs in Ohio and Michigan. That was the latest outbreak in a slow wave that has been washing through state fairs since the summer of 2012, when 306 people caught swine flu from pigs at fairs; 16 were sick enough to be hospitalized and one person died.

Swine flu” might be familiar; it was what people called the pandemic of 2009, when a new variant of flu that moved from pigs to people swept the world and made millions sick — only mildly so, fortunately, instead of the dire illness that killed millions of people in the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918.

Public health concern? STEC in swine

This descriptive longitudinal study was conducted to investigate the fecal shedding of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in finishing swine and to characterize the swine STEC isolates that were recovered.

swine.stec.jan.15Three cohorts of finishing swine (n = 50/cohort; total 150 pigs) were included in the longitudinal study. Individual fecal samples were collected every 2 weeks (8 collections/pig) from the beginning (pig age 10 weeks) to the end (pig age 24 weeks) of the finishing period. STEC isolates were recovered in at least one sample from 65·3% (98/150) of the pigs, and the frequency distribution of first-time STEC detection during the finishing period resembled a point-source outbreak curve.

Nineteen O:H serotypes were identified among the STEC isolates. Most STEC isolates (n = 148) belonged to serotype O59:H21 and carried the stx2e gene. One O49:H21 STEC isolate carried the stx2e and eae genes. High prevalence rates of STEC during the finishing period were observed, and STEC isolates in various non-O157 serogroups were recovered. These data enhance understanding of swine STEC epidemiology, and future research is needed to confirm whether or not swine STEC are of public health concern.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in swine: prevalence over the finishing period and characteristics of the STEC isolates

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 03 / February 2015, pp 505-514

M. Tseng, P.M. Fratamico, L.Bagi, D. Manzinger and J.A. Funk