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The Meat Inspection Service in Taiwan
Shian-Jyue Du
Meat Inspection Department
Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine,
Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan
8F, 51 Chung-Ching S. Rd. Sec. 2
Taipei, Taiwan 100, 2002-10-01

Abstract

The purpose of a meat inspection service is to ensure that meat used for human consumption is safe and wholesome. Meat inspection includes ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections of meat animals. Modern concepts of meat safety extend from farm to table, and include the performance of hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) and pathogen reduction. More than 300 veterinarians and inspectors in Taiwan enforce the regulations of meat inspection, slaughterhouse standards and slaughter operations. A new development is an Internet network for administering the meat inspection service. Taiwan's meat inspection program has made conspicuous achievements over the past 30 years. All of pigs sold in auction markets are now slaughtered in official slaughterhouses.

Introduction

The meat inspection service (MIS) prevents the meat and offal of diseased animals from being used as human food. The MIS also prevents product contamination by imposing processing controls for processed products. The MIS controls the disposal of residues and economic fraud, as well as approving slaughterhouse premises to make sure that they are up to standard, and that slaughter procedures are being carried out properly. In Taiwan, since January 2001 the meat inspection service has been the responsibility of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ), under the Council of Agriculture (COA).

Requirements of a Meat Inspection Service

The required measures for a meat inspection service fall into three groups: infrastructure requirements, inspection standards and procedures, as well as hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) and pathogen reduction programs. The follow-up procedures, which examine how well the inspection program is working, are the key to a successful meat inspection service.

Infrastructure Requirements

Infrastructure requirements for a meat inspection service ideally include a program organized and administrated by the national government, staff to ensure enforcement, government control of competent qualified inspectors, and administrative and technical support for the program. Inspection officials must also have the authority and means of enforcing regulations.

Meat inspection includes inspection both of the living animals before slaughter (ante-mortem) and of the carcass and viscera after slaughter (post-mortem) for all livestock and poultry intended for use as human food. The purpose is to ensure that all meat and meat products are wholesome and free of disease. The term "livestock" includes pigs, cattle and buffalo, sheep and goats. "Poultry" involves chickens, ducks and geese. In Taiwan, pigs and chickens are the two main meat animals. In the year 2000, 9.9 million pigs were slaughtered in Taiwan, with an estimated meat weight of 920 thousand mt. In the same year, 24,000 head of cattle and water buffalo were slaughtered (4,901 mt beef), 169,300 goats (3,614 mt mutton), 389.7 million chickens (with a combined carcass weight of 631,142 mt), 34 million ducks (with a combined carcass weight of 64,504 mt), and 6.5 million geese (with a combined carcass weight of 25,850 mt).

The Structure of the Meat Inspection Service in Taiwan

The framework of the meat inspection service in Taiwan is fairly typical of those of many developed countries. The Meat Inspection Department (MID) of BAPHIQ is responsible for establishing policies, standards and procedures relating to safe and wholesome meat, for administering the registration of establishment dealing with meat and poultry, and for the supervision and planning of ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection practices. The MID covers three divisions: Administrative Services, Inspection Operations, and Compliance.

They work together to:

  • Register slaughterhouses and other businesses concerned with livestock and poultry meat;
  • Supervise the hygiene in these businesses;
  • Monitor ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections;
  • Improve the techniques and procedures used for ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections;
  • Execute a ban against illegal slaughter operations and the selling of non-inspected meat; and,
  • Conduct educational programs for veterinarians and other staff, to train them in ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection and compliance operations.

Ensuring Enforcement

On-line meat inspection by the official veterinary meat inspectors is a legal obligation for all slaughterhouses. The branches of BAPHIQ also carry out periodic and unexpected follow-up visits.

Qualified Veterinary Meat Inspectors

Veterinary meat inspectors (VMI) are required to complete training courses before they begin their assignments in slaughter-houses. Newly appointed VMIs are given a two-week training course and intern practice under a skilled inspector before they become responsible for the ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection of meat-producing animals. They are trained in the relevant regulations, methods of enforcement, standards for slaughterhouses and slaughter operations.

Other topics covered in the training course include meat inspection, safety and sanitation, ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection procedures, control of restricted products, control of condemned and inedible products, microbiology, and the epidemiology of food-borne diseases. Monitoring of carcass microbiology and off-line inspection procedures are covered in the advanced course. A veterinary meat inspector must be a qualified veterinarian.

The Animal Technology Institute Taiwan (formerly the Pig Research Institute Taiwan) is responsible for holding these training programs. The wages of the VMI come from the BAPHIQ fiscal budget.

A total of 296 veterinary meat inspectors were out working in the field in 2002. An additional 69 staff members of BAPHIQ have been assigned to the national inspection program. Of these, 17 staff members work for the meat inspection department.

Administrative Support

With regard to administration, the main legislation is the Animal Industry Act. There are also four regulations relevant to meat inspection: the Enforcement Rules of Animal Industry Act, the Rules of Meat Inspection (RMI), the Establishment Standards for Slaughterhouse (ESS), and the Requirements for Slaughter Operation (RSO).

Although the flesh of healthy livestock is almost sterile, the carcass may become contaminated during slaughter. One cause of contaminated if slaughter facilities are badly designed and poorly constructed. Different types of livestock need different slaughter facilities and premises. These are formally approved prior to the beginning of their operations. The mark "BAPHIQ inspected and passed" stamped on fresh meat shows that the meat is from livestock slaughtered at an official slaughterhouse.

To prevent cross contamination, staff from the slaughter unit, including the inspectors, should be able to access the cooler for edible byproducts without passing through a line of carcasses. Any carcass which stinks or has an unusual odor is judged to "Fail", and cannot be used as food.

National Meat Inspection Program

The national meat inspection program covers the mandatory inspection of livestock, including pigs, cattle and goats. This program also provides voluntary inspection of chickens and ducks in certified slaughterhouses, according to the Chinese Agriculture Standards (CAS). The CAS system has the voluntary participation of food processors, and is under government supervision.

Authority of Inspectors to Enforce Regulations

All slaughterhouses now comply with regulations. Together with the local government officials, the Compliance Division of MID began a full-fledged sweep of illegal slaughter operations in July 2000. Meanwhile, BAPHIQ increased the number of official veterinary inspectors working in slaughterhouses.

The number of livestock and poultry subjected to meat inspection is increasing each year. For instance, the number of slaughtered swine which were inspected by official meat inspectors before sale was 700,000 head in August 2001 and 2002, compared to only 467,000 head in August 2000 ( Fig. 1(1381)). This represents a 33% increase in the rate of meat inspection. All of the pigs sold by auction are slaughtered in official slaughterhouses. Since January 2001, the Council of Agriculture has replaced the Department of Health as the body responsible for the meat inspection service in Taiwan.

Up to December 2002, more than 45 slaughterhouses and/or processing plants for livestock and 14 for poultry have been certified and given a license, in accordance with the regulations of ESS. The carcasses of all food animals which pass the meat inspection service on-line are stamped "BAPHIQ inspected and passed." This measure ensures that the meat is wholesome and safe for human consumption. Condemmed parts, viscera and animals dead on arrival are marked with dye prior to rendering or incineration.

If there is any violation of the regulations of RSO and ESS, an inspector writes a cautionary letter, and an instruction for improvement to the competent authorities. The cautionary letter must be issued before an instruction for improvement can be served. The inspectors give plant operators a specified period to make representations before further action is taken.

The instruction for improvement is another statutory notice that can be issued if informal action has not achieved results, and there remains a risk to public health. It specifies improvements to the plant, procedures or equipment that need to be made to remove any risk. If the requirements are not met, the authorized officers of BAPHIQ may prohibit the use of equipment, or any part of a licensed premise. A toll free phone number (0800-039-131) is set up for people to report any violation of the regulations.

Standards and Procedures of the Meat Inspection Service

Meat inspection procedures consist of the inspection of livestock and poultry before they are slaughtered (ante-mortem), followed by the post-mortem inspection of carcasses and offal. Inspectors also ensure that the livestock are slaughtered humanely, that proper arrangements are made to handle and ship the product, that the construction, facilities and equipments at the plant are up to standard, and that sanitary requirements are met. Inspectors also exercise official control over condemned material until it is destroyed or removed, and are responsible for the maintenance of the HACCP program or its equivalent.

Modern Management by Internet

The web site at http://mi.baphiq.gov.tw is a secure network for the meat inspection service. It facilitates two-way communication between an on-line inspection team and MID, and makes immediately available the meat inspection records, both ante-mortem and post-mortem, for livestock and poultry. It also gives details about personnel, such as which veterinary meat inspectors are on duty and who is on leave.

Technical Support

Periodic audits are carried out to ensure that the inspection system is implemented properly, and that all requirements are being properly enforced.

When diagnosis is needed for pathogenic bacteria, representative specimens of affected tissues are sent for examination in a laboratory. Suspect specimens for both microbiology and pathology examination are examined at the Animal Technology Institute Taiwan, or at one of the four major universities with a veterinary department authorized to do these examinations.

The National Animal Industry Foundation is contracted to carry out the analysis for chemical residues in suspect samples. Suspected residue violations are always confirmed by using an official rapid test kit. The most commonly used are ELISA kits. These include tests for antibiotics (chloramphenicol, streptomycin, neomycin, gentamicin), and sulfonamides (sulfamethazine, sulfadimethoxine, sulfamonomethoxine, sulfadiazine, sulfamethoxazole and sulfamerazine). If results are positive, the samples will be taken to the laboratory for confirmation by means of thin-layer chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography. LC-Mass spectrophotometry might be applied to reconfirm the residue, if necessary.

In addition, to ensure that meat and offal are fit for human consumption, slaughterhouses conduct random tests for microbial contamination. Slaughterhouses are also required to keep records of maintenance, pest control and cleanup for at least one year.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (Haccp) and Pathogen Reduction

Safety from Farm to Table

The best way to improve the quality of meat is to improve the health of farm animals. "Safety from farm to table" is not a political slogan, but a good and valid management practice for providing safe and wholesome meat. It extends safety considerations to the original source, and gives effective control of chemical residues. It also reduces the incidence of microbial contamination and diseased meat.

Most meat plants today recognize that the global trend in eradicating food-borne pathogens is to apply the scientific system of HACCP and pathogen reduction programs. HACCP and pathogen reduction play an important role in the slaughter and processing of meat animals.

Scientific Research Programs

A baseline survey of microbial contamination is now being carried out. The results will be applied to the management of meat inspection. Control of fecal contamination does increase the shelf life of meat and reduce the risk to the consumer. Testing for generic E. coli to measure the level of microbial control in the slaughter process can verify the performance of slaughter operations and rectify any defects. Funds are being sought to extend this research further. Another important topic of research is the development of rapid, easy-to-use testing procedures.

Sanitation Standards

To prevent contamination, the following equipment and operations should be located in areas separate from the carcass dressing area, except for the openings for access and the passage of carcasses.

  • Hoisting, sticking and bleeding;
  • Scalding vat or tank;
  • Dehairing machine, which must be located within an area with a curb and a non-clogging drainage outlet;
  • Gambrelling table (gambrels are angled rods used to suspend slaughtered animals), and,
  • Singeing operations.

The flow of slaughter operations, the traffic flow of people, the layout of coolers and freezers, the dry storage areas and the vehicle areas outside the building, are also covered by the regulations of ESS and RSO.

Two other important requirements are a sufficient water supply, and sufficient floor slope for drainage.

A minimum of 500 Lux of shadow-free lighting is installed to illuminate the inspection surfaces of the head, viscera, and carcasses. Sinks for washing hands have to be furnished with soap, a towel, cold water, and hot water heated to a temperature of up to 83oC. At least one basin must be located adjacent to the veterinary meat inspector's work area.

Enforcing these regulations for slaughter operations decreases the health menace and strengthens the competitiveness of meat and poultry products on the market.

Conclusion

The increasing rate with which meat and slaughterhouses are being inspected by official inspectors is an encouraging trend. However, the meat inspection service in Taiwan needs to be structured in a more coordinated and integrated way. Some improvements have already been carried out, including preliminary and on-the-job training for veterinary meat inspectors, a secure Internet network, and strengthened and improved administrative and technical support. In keeping with the modern trend, HACCP and pathogen reduction programs will play an important role in meat and poultry slaughter and processing.

References

  • Council of Agriculture. 2001. Agricultural Standards Yearbook 2000. Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, Taipei, Taiwan, pp. 136-147.
  • Du, Shian-Jyue, Tai-Hwa Shih, and Shu-Wen Cheng. 1988. Verification of compliance of operations in beef plants. Council of Agriculture and Pig Research Institute Taiwan, pp. 1-74. (In Chinese).
  • European Community. 2000. White Paper on food security G/SPS/Gen/69. 14 March 2000. Communication by the European Community, Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, World Trade Organization, pp. 1-54.
  • Food Standards Agency. 2001. Meat Hygiene Enforcement Report. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK.
  • Hsiao, Tzong-Yau. 2001. Policy of Meat Inspection Service: Regulations training course for administrators of meat inspection - 90 fiscal year (I), Pig Research Institute Taiwan, MiaoLi, Taiwan, pp. 1-4. (In Chinese),
  • McDougal T. 2001. HACCP inspection models project overview. Paper presented at the Meat and Poultry Products Inspection Seminar for International Government Officials, February 19 - March 8, 2001. FSIS Training and Education Center, College Station, Texas, USA. (monograph).
  • Sung, Watson H.T. 2000. Mission and current status of public veterinary service in Taiwan, Proceedings of the 11th Congress of the Federation of Asian Veterinary Associations - "New Era Veterinarians". November 27-29, Taipei, Taiwan, pp. 7-17.

For more information about the meat inspection service in Taiwan, please browse the BAPHIQ website at http//www.baphiq.gov.tw.

Index of Images

Figure 1 Comparison of the Number of Swine in Taiwan Slaughtered under the Supervision of the Meat Inspection Service, 2000 - 2002.

 

Figure 1 Comparison of the Number of Swine in Taiwan Slaughtered under the Supervision of the Meat Inspection Service, 2000 - 2002.

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