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Trichinae Export Program - Background  

European and other countries have been inspecting meat for the presence of Trichinella for many years. Their efforts have had some dramatic results in the reduction of the incidence of Trichinella infection in swine. Despite the historical problems of Trichinae and its association with the pork industry, changes have taken place in the last 50 years that have caused a major decline in the prevalence of this parasite in swine produced and raised in the United States. Historically, trichinae infection in swine was associated with feeding them raw meat waste products. The incidence of trichinae was reduced with the advent of meat waste cooking laws in the mid 1950ís. Still greater reductions have been experienced with the implementation of high levels of biosecurity and hygiene under which most U.S. swine are now raised. Despite the fact that trichinae is rare in todayís swine industry, pork still suffers from its historical association with the parasite.

Today the trichinae issue is a question of perception versus reality. Human cases of Trichinellosis reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined from about 500 per year in the 1940ís to fewer than 50 per year over the last decade. Many of the 50 cases resulted from non-pork sources such as bear and other game meats. Even with dramatic declines in the prevalence of trichinae in swine, the extremely low number of cases in humans has remained largely unrecognized by consumers.

Currently, the most reliable and cost-efficient method for detecting Trichinella infection in meat at slaughter is the artificial digestion method. This procedure can be performed in a number of variations and is highly accurate. When Trichinella larvae are ingested in muscle tissue they are contained in cysts. In the stomach, the cysts are digested by gastric juices, and the Trichinella larvae are released. The artificial digestion method is based on mimicking the digestion that takes place in the stomach. The digestion of Trichinella cysts is done using pepsin and hydrochloric acid. Once the larvae have been liberated they are sedimented and cleaned for visualization under a microscope.

Under the AMS Analyst and Laboratory Certification Program, analysts will be trained and certified to perform the artificial digestion procedure by two different methods: (1) the magnetic stirrer method, and (2) the stomacher method. Both methods are approved by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the purpose of verification under this program. In addition, both methods are approved by European Union (EU) member countries, Russia, Singapore, and Chile for Trichinella testing in horsemeat and pork destined for export.

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  Last Modified Date: 08/02/2006