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A passport to safer food and a more competitive Europe

An EU-funded project aims to ensure that the pork that ends up on our plate is completely safe, and that European producers are able to compete on the global marketplace - whatever their size. The EU has some of the toughest food safety standards in the world, yet foodborn...

An EU-funded project aims to ensure that the pork that ends up on our plate is completely safe, and that European producers are able to compete on the global marketplace - whatever their size. The EU has some of the toughest food safety standards in the world, yet foodborne pathogens in fresh and processed meat continue to pose a serious threat to consumer health. Given the globalised nature of today's supply chain - with products sold in the EU imported from all over the world - achieving rapid and accurate pathogen detection is key to protecting public health. This then is the main objective of the EU-funded PASSPORK project, a two-year initiative started in September 2012. It aims to develop, validate and test an affordable, durable and rapid multi-pathogen detector that can be used by non-technical staff in the pork industry. The PORKPASS solution will consist of an analyser that features a number of new technologies, including an optical scanner. This will allow for the rapid and accurate detection of key pathogens, within just six minutes. Currently, taking samples and sending them to a laboratory for analysis, and then waiting for the results, can last more than a day (up to seven days if classical microbiology is applied). The ultimate goal is to empower every section of the meat supply chain - such as abattoirs and meat-processors - to assess their own hygiene standards quickly and simply and to be alert to the possible presence of pathogens. Immediate action can then be taken, significantly reducing the risk of cross contamination and the possibility of a potentially ruinous product recall. Unsurprisingly given its name, the project's focus is on the pork industry. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, this sector is crucial both in terms of consumption and commercial importance; at 51%, pork is the most produced and consumed meat in Europe, as well as the most exported. Secondly, pork is also responsible for a higher number of verified food poisoning outbreaks per year comparing to beef. These outbreaks are due to several specific pathogens, including salmonella, listeria and campylobacter. A recent EU-wide survey performed by EFSA found that one in every ten pigs slaughtered in Europe is contaminated with Salmonella. While larger enterprises are able to afford expensive checks, SMEs - which account for 94% of businesses in the European meat industry - often simply cannot afford to carry out such exercises. This is bad for European business, as it means that their animals are more susceptible to disease, and leaves them unable to compete with larger enterprises in the global and even European market place. As a result, SMEs in the pork industry are losing competitive advantage. The PASSPORK detector aims to change this. PASSPORK will receive a total of EUR 1 299 919 in EU funding. The project brings together applied research centres, universities, food engineering laboratories, as well as a pork slaughterhouse and processing plant. For more information, please visit: PASSPORK http://www.passpork.eu Project factsheet

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