Due to EU regulations, egg producers have to ensure that effective measures are taken to control Salmonella and other zoonotic agents. Moreover, housing in conventional battery cages is prohibited from 2012. Currently, there is limited information on the proportion of eggs contaminated and the level of contamination, with zoonotic pathogens, in relation to the different conventional and alternative housing systems.
The proposed project will collect and analyse EU-wide data evaluating the effect of the housing system on egg contamination by zoonotic agents, in order to predict the potential risk to the consumer of the move to more welfare-friendly laying hen housing systems. This will be done by risk assessment studies using EFSA monitoring data, in combination with new data derived from cross-sectional and longitudinal studies in flocks housed in different housing systems.
These risk assessment studies will cover all potential zoonotic agents, antibiotic resistance gene transmission and residues. Furthermore, standardized experimental infection models with Salmonella will be used to directly assess the effect of the housing system on colonization of the gut and internal organs, including reproductive tissues, on spread of a Salmonella infection within a group of laying hens, and on egg contamination.
The underlying mechanisms of possible differences in prevalence of zoonotic agents in the different housing systems will be investigated by analysing stress responses, the composition of the microbiota and immune competence, in hens housed in different housing systems, both in experimental setups as in the field. To control zoonotic agents in the alternative housing systems, the project will propose simple and cost-effective measures such as steering gut flora composition towards a protective flora by changing feed composition. Also vector control, in particular red mites, and optimalisation of the housing system design are key issues.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
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