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Clean Vehicle Programme to Cut Pig Diseases

24 February 2012, at 12:00am

A study into vehicle cleaning facilities abattoirs was conducted by BPEX with the aim to reduce the risk of spreading diseases in the UK pig industry, according to Colin Stone of BPEX. As a result of the study, from April 2012, it will be required for adequate facilities for the cleaning and disinfection of livestock vehicles to be available at all times at abattoirs.

The ‘Cleaner Lorry Campaign’ began life back in September 2009, said Colin Stone of BPEX’s KT Team at a recent online event, after the Pig Task Force Committee, chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick, announced its intention drive forward a number of initiatives within the UK meat supply chains.

One of the subgroups from this task Force focused on pig issues and on decreasing the risk of disease transmission within the pig industry. From here, the Pig Health Group identified abattoir vehicle washing as a significant factor for the industry.

Discussions between Richard Lister of Yorkshire & Humberside Health and Howard Revell of Eastern Pig Health led to the enlistment of help from the BPEX team to review abattoir washing facilities.

In early October 2009, BPEX circulated a simple wash assessment form to pig hauliers, enabling them to express their own views of facilities visited. This phase of the project ended in January 2010.

The forms were analysed in Stoneleigh for an overview of evidence from many sites. This was not as straightforward as expected, according to Mr Stone, because of the number of concerns from multi-species hauliers.

It became evident that one of the highest risks to the pig industry was, in fact, other livestock. Many hauliers suggested this was due to lack of water and/or disinfectant and generally, facilities were not suitable for good cleaning and disinfection.

The whole survey involved 240 abattoirs, of which 18 are registered with British Quality Assured Pork (BQAP), representing 92 per cent of the annual pig kill. BPEX placed all resources at these 18 sites, explained Mr Stone.

They decided on Gold, Silver and Bronze as grades of wash quality relative to possible risks of disease transmission, Gold being best practice and full marks would generate 60 points. Gold scored 5 points, Silver 3 and Bronze, one point.

The haulier survey returns revealed variations, even for the same abattoir reported so BPEX visited each BQAP abattoir for independent review. This created different dialogues from company directors to abattoir managers in order to establish who was responsible for the wash sites.

From these initial independent surveys, scores ranged form 48 to 21 points, clearly demonstrating there was room for improvement.

Mr Stone explained that BPEX worked directly with many decision-makers. This brought positive responses, including several sites that embarked on investment to improve these areas.

Initially, 13 of the abattoirs had a nominated person responsible for the livestock washing facilities, and five did not. In the near future, it will be required for all plants to have a named person responsible.

How Long Does Vehicle Washing Take?

Fasting would help speed up the process but this is difficult due to batch finishing, explained Mr Stone. The relative impacts of bedding – straw versus shavings – requires further investigation. Design and lay-out of washers varied; high water volume washers were preferred by the hauliers.

On completion of the declaration form, many livestock vehicles are leaving premises without washing due to long queues although they may leave the site and wash elsewhere.

With basic facilities, BPEX found wash–own times ranged from 45 minutes for a small vehicle to 120 minutes for a large one. Times were reduced to 30 minutes and 90 minutes, respectively, for purpose-built facilities. Overall, basic facilities required 35 per cent more time for washing the vehicle.

BPEX used a manufacturing engineer to evaluate one abattoir's wash practice. The study will also review all hauliers’ methods for cleaning vehicles, any advantage of straw versus shavings and high- versus low-volume pressure washers.

Quality of the wash is more important than vehicle throughput, according to Mr Stone. BPEX also stressed the importance of monitoring water use with the view to minimising wastage.

Disinfection

At the last count, there were 326 Defra-approved disinfectants, according to BPEX. Most important is to use the correct dilution rates and read data sheets. Disinfectants only work effectively if all organic material has been removed, water is clean and the correct water temperature is reached for those products that are temperature-sensitive.

Veterinarians can advise on which products are best to control swine dysentery and Salmonella.

Various disinfection methods were observed, from mobile knapsack to dosatron and one farm had a fully insulated unit working 365 days a year. There, the hose line cleans itself when rolled in or out.

Contamination

Contamination with slurry, bedding or other forms of dirt was quite often observed in the vehicle area on farms, according to BPEX.

Another key point is that clean vehicles may be recontaminated if parked next to others that are being cleaned.

Impact on Assurance Schemes

Mr Stone explained that the Red Tractor Assurance Transport Scheme was revised in June 2011 to include a section on cleaning and disinfection – a move that represented the starting point for the industry to work together on this aspect.

Since 1 January 2012, the BQAP standard has included a new clause inserted in the general requirements section as a new sub-clause 2.5, which reads: ‘Adequate facilities for the cleaning and disinfection of livestock vehicles shall be available at all times commensurate with the size and number supplying the abattoir.’

From 1 April 2012, this will be a requirement and fully auditable.

Mr Stone said that, from 1 January 2013, BQAP will include a requirement for all vehicles to be effectively cleaned and disinfected before leaving the site.

The newly formed Pig Health Improvement Project aims to increase cooperation and it is hoped this will bring rewards in terms of improved health, further driving up industry standards.

Responsibility for the issue needs to be shared: the best biosecurity is achieved when farmers, hauliers and abattoirs work together, said Mr Stone.

He concluded: “Above all, we need good communication within and between the sectors to stop diseases spreading.”

- You can view our previous report of this event, concerning the need for a supply chain approach to swine dysentery, by clicking here.


February 2012