New Zealand tightens rules to tackle Salmonella in chickens and eggs

New Zealand tightens rules to tackle Salmonella in chickens and eggs

by Sue Jones
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Regulators in New Zealand have tightened the rules for the chicken sector to try and tackle a type of Salmonella linked to human illnesses.

The new rules came into force earlier this month and attempt to manage Salmonella Enteritidis across chicken breeder, hatchery, rearers, broiler, and egg laying operations in New Zealand, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

There have been more than 110 cases of Salmonella Enteritidis since January 2019 and 48 from January to July this year. The outbreak strain has been identified in poultry and at egg farms. It was first detected two years ago in an outbreak linked to a restaurant in the Auckland region. Since 2019, it has been associated with four other outbreaks.

Action was taken in response to recent positive Salmonella Enteritidis tests at several New Zealand poultry farms and applies to all operators within the chicken supply chain. Until recently, Salmonella Enteritidis had not been detected in New Zealand commercial chicken flocks. The aim is to mitigate the risks by strengthening current controls, verifications, and testing levels.

The order applies for six months and does not cover other poultry or eggs for farms with 100 or less laying hens selling direct to consumers.

Stricter controls
In this period, operators need to take steps including starting post-hatch testing; creating and implementing a Salmonella Enteritidis plan; finding a lab and do sampling and testing; and having a verification visit.

Sampling includes environmental testing of boots, dust and feces as well as empty sheds, but not eggs.

In July, New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) extended a program of testing to determine the extent of Salmonella Enteritidis in poultry flocks.

Tracing and testing of poultry operations began after Salmonella Enteritidis was found at an Auckland poultry farm. Restrictions were placed on three North Island egg layer operations preventing potentially contaminated eggs from reaching consumers.

The testing program included 20 egg-laying facilities and five chick rearers that collectively account for 80 percent of the industry’s table eggs. The intention was to contain and then eliminate Salmonella Enteritidis from the affected farms.

In September, the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand said no other detections of Salmonella Enteritidis had been reported during further testing. Advice is still to cook eggs fully as a precautionary measure.

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