A risk and benefit assessment for visual-only meat inspection of indoor and outdoor pigs in the United Kingdom

Andrew Hill*, Adam Brouwer, Neil Donaldson, Sarah Lambton, Sava Buncic, Ian Griffiths

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The current system of post-mortem meat inspection, using typical macroscopic inspection techniques, is ineffective in identifying the most common foodborne illness hazards, e.g. Salmonella and Campylobacter. Therefore, there is a need to adopt a more appropriate, risk-based approach to meat inspection. One specific example of modifying traditional inspection techniques to represent a more cost-effective approach to meat inspection is the allowance in EC Regulation 854/2004 for pigs that have been reared under controlled housing conditions since weaning to only undergo a visual inspection. However, the definition of controlled housing excludes outdoor pig production, and hence the United Kingdom (UK) has yet to introduce this method of meat inspection into abattoirs because of the associated complications of having a large outdoor UK pig herd. Therefore, in the context of the UK Food Standards Agency's programme of work to modernise meat hygiene inspection, we have conducted a qualitative risk assessment to assess the comparative risks to public and animal health from allowing visual-only inspection of both indoor and outdoor pigs.

In order for visual-only inspection to be of higher risk than traditional meat inspection, the sensitivity of detection of a hazard must significantly decrease under visual-only inspection. In addition, for outdoor pigs to pose a greater risk than indoor pigs, the hazard must be more prevalent in the former than the latter. From a large number of hazards originally identified as worthy of investigation, only one (porcine tuberculosis) was considered to be of significant public or animal health risk and would be less likely to be detected through visual-only inspection. Despite higher rates of porcine tuberculosis in outdoor pigs than indoor pigs, the relatively small number of additional heads/carcasses that are infected and would be missed by including outdoor pigs in visual-only meat inspection (compared to traditional meat inspection) would pose a negligible risk to public health and a negligible/very low risk to animal health/welfare. Hence, we concluded that the overall risk from all hazards to public health by transferring to a visual-only inspection method was assessed as negligible for all pigs. Crown Copyright (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-264
Number of pages10
JournalFood Control
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Risk assessment
  • Meat inspection


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