Risk assessment for Toxoplasma gondii in the Danish pig industry

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Boes, Jaap
Alban, Lis
Sørensen, Lene
Nersting, L.
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International Conference on the Epidemiology and Control of Biological, Chemical and Physical Hazards in Pigs and Pork
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The SafePork conference series began in 1996 to bring together international researchers, industry, and government agencies to discuss current Salmonella research and identify research needs pertaining to both pig and pork production. In subsequent years topics of research presented at these conferences expanded to include other chemical and biological hazards to pig and pork production.


The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is capable of infecting most mammals including man. In humans, toxoplasmosis is usually asymptomatic but may have serious consequences for pregnant women or immuno-compromised patients. Contact with infected cats and cat litter, contaminated soil and Infected meat are risk factors for toxoplasmosis. Although the prevalence of Toxoplasma in pig production has declined significantly dunng the past 30 years, it has recently been suggested that a large part of human cases of toxoplasmosis may be ascribed to meat, mcluding pork and pork products. Moreover, perinatal screening of pregnant women and infants for Toxoplasma has proven to be of limited value. This has raised the question of how to survey for Toxoplasma· in humans or meat? Therefore, the role of meat, including pigs and pork, as a risk factor for human toxoplasmosis was assessed by the Danish Meat Association . The release assessment showed that outdoor-reared pigs as well as sows and boars were at higher risk of infection with Toxoplasma. With respect to exposure, consumption of mildly cured pork products and inadequately heat-treated pork were associated with increased risk. Knowledge on elimination or survival of Toxoplasma in cured pork products is sparse, which is unsatisfactory given current trends toward lower salt content and lower cooking temperatures. It was concluded that, aside from consumption of raw pork, which is rare in Denmark and not recommended for other reasons, certain mildly cured ready-to-eat pork products, that have not been heat-treated, may constitute a risk for toxoplasmosis, if not frozen prior to manufacturing. Information on the effects of cunng on survival of Toxoplasma in meat is sparse and therefore deserves further research. However, most of the pork used for manufacturing in Denmark onginates from pigs raised indoors and for logistic reasons it is frozen prior to processing, thereby reducing the risk for human toxoplasmosis.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2007