The Meat Hygiene Laboratory currently housed at in Matsapha at the export abattoir (SMI) facility provides laboratory testing facility to the VPH and Meat Hygiene services at the export abattoir and to other abattoirs inspected by the mandated government section. At the export abattoir the laboratory is guided by standards of the importing countries mostly EU standards. According to the MOA (2014), the laboratory sent all its salmonella analysis to Deltamune laboratory in Pretoria and five samples tested positive for salmonella. Over 1500 meat samples were also sent to Deltamune laboratory for Total Viable Count and Enterobacteriacea. Most results were within specification. Samples were also sent to Deltamune laboratories for the assessment of 90 days’ shelf life of meat. On average every month one water sample is sent to the accredited Water Services Laboratory for general microbiological analysis. Results are variable with most falling within specification.
In February a sample of water was sent to ALS Environmental Laboratory in the United Kingdom for chemical parameters analysis accordance with the EU directives. Laboratory samples are sent to LGC laboratory in the United Kingdom for annual residue analysis. This involves hormones, heavy metals etc. All tuberculosis (TB) suspect specimens are sent to the Central Veterinary Laboratory for confirmation using Acid Fast Bacteria. There were 75 TB suspect samples and 47 were confirmed positive. The percentage of positive salmonella samples increased slightly from 0.29% in 2012 to 0.59% in 2013 and further decreased in 2014 to 0.32% (MOA, 2014).
2.2.2 Hygiene During Meat Production
Meat processing hygiene is part of Quality Management (QM) of meat plants. It refers to the hygienic measures undertaken during the various processing steps in the manufacture of meat products. Regulatory authorities usually provide the compulsory national legal framework for the enforcement of meat hygiene programmes through laws and regulations. It is the primary responsibility of individual enterprises to develop and apply efficient meat hygiene programmes specifically adapted to their relevant range of production (McCrindle, 2004).
The slaughtering process must have a clear division between the contaminated and clean section both in the construction of the building and in all the operational matters. The contaminated procedure ends with the removal of the hide and the bowel (Schneider, 2004). Further prophylactic measures during meat production consist of mechanizing the slaughtering procedure as fast as possible from the removal of hooves and hides, through the splitting of the carcasses and finally to their automatic conveyance in a hanging position (Hoobs and Gilbert 2006).
2.2.3 Meat Inspection
There are over 70 known diseases that animals may have that can be transmitted to man. In the interest of public health, it became evident years ago that some kind of independent regulations and supervision was necessary (Warriss, 2005). Inspection occurs in slaughter houses and other levels for processors, canners or other wishing to handle meat in any form and offer it in interstate or foreign commerce. There are five basic areas of concern for plants under Federal Inspection: detection and destruction of diseases and unfit meat, clean and sanitary handling and or preparation of food composed wholly or in part of meat, prevention of harmful substances in meat and application of an official inspection mark, the round purple inspection number (Levie, 2002).
According to Warriss (2005), the carcass and viscera are inspected as soon as possible after slaughter. As in ante – mortem inspection, this is to identify abnormalities or diseases that would make the meat and edible offal unfit for human consumption. To this end it is important that the carcass retains its identity with the parts and viscera removed from it. Inspection is normally carried out by specially licensed veterinarians or meat inspectors. As well as inspection, they will often have other roles, including overseeing animals’ welfare standards. Condemned meat is removed to a special retaining room where it is placed under Federal lock and key, to be used for fertilizer or destroyed. Sometimes a portion or the entire carcass of a retained animal may be released for consumption, where certain infections or bruises are light to moderate. The carcass may be salvaged after a prescribed extensive examination and removal of all visible conditions. Carcasses from which infections are removed must be retained for 10 days at temperatures below 0°C (Levie, 2002). Tissues and organs are examined by visual inspection, palpating and incisions. Considerable attention is paid to routine incision of lymph nodes to detect the disease state. In most infection, bacteria collect in the lymphatic system and are concentrated and destroyed in the lymph nodes. This occurs at certain intervals throughout the lymphatic system. Inflammation of the lining of the thoracic cavity or the abdominal cavity may indicate infection (Van Der Walt, 2005).
2.2.4 Ante – mortem Inspection
Ante-mortem inspection involves a visual and physical evaluation of the live animal prior to slaughter to identify any conditions that may indicate disease or illness. The meat inspection personnel are responsible for identifying any high-risk animals and making determinations to allow them to enter the food chain or to condemn them from entering. These actions are taken to ensure that meat is safe and wholesome for consumption. Humane animal handling has long been of interest to both the regulatory Agency and the industry. The beef industry has studied the behaviour and movement of cattle and designed pens, walkways and equipment to improve the handling of livestock (Schneider 2004).
2.2.5 Post – mortem Inspection
The inspectors are responsible for conducting a thorough examination of the lymph nodes, organs, and entire carcass to identify signs of disease and unwholesome conditions. This inspection process involves all slaughtered animals. If any carcass or its parts are identified as diseased or unwholesome then they are condemned and prevented from entering the food supply. This is a surveillance system to prevent diseased animals from entering the food supply (Grandin, 2004).
2.2.6 Microbial Analysis of Meat
The bacteria in or on animals may include those which can cause food poisoning in humans and which are recognized hazards from meat. Most of these bacteria do not cause illness in meat producing animals, which will appear healthy. Although ante-mortem inspection will enable clinically ill animals to be detected, it is not possible to identify healthy carriers of pathogenic organisms. It must therefore be assumed that all animals entering the slaughterhouse have the potential to carry pathogenic organisms in or on them (Levie, 2002).
2.2.7 Carcass Testing
When pathogenic bacteria are transferred to carcasses they are usually present in only small numbers and on a small area of the carcass. This means that a negative result from microbiological testing for pathogenic bacteria will not guarantee the absence of such organisms. A large surface area of a high proportion of carcasses needs to be tested to obtain a statistically valid result for many pathogenic bacteria. This is neither practical nor economically feasible and is why a criterion for Escherichia coli is not currently included in Regulation 2073/2005 (Seeiso, 2009).
2.2.8 Field Veterinary Services
The Department of Veterinary and Livestock Services (DVLS) has a subdivision of Veterinary Field Services which facilitate the trade of livestock and products of animal origin. The Veterinary Field Services’ mandate is the control of imports and exports of live animals and animal products, handling of government and private quarantine matters and as well as monitoring and inspection of border posts. At the border posts there are veterinary officials called cordon guards who inspect the imports of live animals. Destination inspection follows next whereby the veterinary officials should break the seal of large consignments to inspect whether it does meet the requirements and conditions set by the importer country (MOA, 2012). According to the OIE (World Animal Health Organization), there are certain standards that the livestock and livestock product should meet before it is actually imported or exported. In Swaziland, food products of animal origin are taken to the VPH section, based at SMI for product and document inspection of the consignment. Some of the live animal imports may be quarantined at government quarantines if the veterinary officials suspect any wrong (especially foot and mouth disease) with the animals. Here the animals are monitored for a period of 30 days (MOA, 2012).
The Veterinary Field Services together with the VPH section control the exportation and importation of livestock and food of animal origin. This is done by allowing the operation of three entry ports out of the eleven ports of entry available in the country. These three (3) ports of entry are Ngwenya. Lavumisa and Mahamba. The mentioned border posts are supervised by cordon guards whose duty is to inspect imports and their documentation for the safety of human consumption. The imports and exports of animals and products of animal origin are recorded with necessary details of consignment description and quantity, dates, imports permit and health certificates, origin and destination of consignments (MOA, 2012).
An audit by the European Commission in 2014 was conducted to evaluate the operation of controls over the production of fresh bovine meat destined for exports to the European Union, as well as certification procedures. According to the EU audit Swaziland has only one slaughter house (SMI) with integrated cutting plant. The abattoir has been recognised for export of de-boned and matured meat from bovine and wild ruminant origin, but the country only exports bovine meat to the EU. The country has one slaughterhouse where the public is permitted to import fresh de-boned bovine meat after maturation (EU Commission, 2014). Table 3 below shows the volume of beef and meat products exported to the European Union. The beef export decreased from 704 tonnes in 2012 to 652 tonnes in 2013.