Cleaning & Sanitation Concerns in Animal Production

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

Ensuring proper clean and sanitary conditions are not only good practices for animal treatment in animal production. It is also necessary to ensure that animal and animal by-products are not contaminated with food-borne pathogens.

Food-Borne Outbreaks

In 2010, a large salmonella outbreak hit the United States. Officials eventually linked the outbreak to the consumption of eggs and estimate that over 50,000 people became ill from this outbreak. Although we are advised to not eat raw eggs, it is rare for that many eggs to be contaminated with salmonella so this was a source of concern for many people. The owners from the farm that the eggs came from were actually sentenced to jail for not properly ensuring a safe product.

We are told that pork must be properly cooked. Yet, there are some cultural dishes that do not cook pork properly. Shortly after World War II, there were groups of refugees living in the United States. They were excited when they found they lived next to a pig farm because then they could make Hackepeter, a cultural dish that does not cook the pork. Yet, they soon fell ill, and many of them died. It was discovered that this meat was contaminated with trichinosis, which transferred to the refugees and killed them.

Microbes & Animals

Since we are talking about cleaning and sanitation, let's first distinguish between the two terms. Cleaning means to be free from soil or dirt. So, just water and a bit of scrubbing is able to clean something. Sanitation is to be free from bacteria and viruses. In order to sanitize, we will need chemicals or heat to ensure that all of the bacteria and viruses are dead. Something can be clean but not sanitary. But for something truly to be sanitary it needs to be clean (if there is dirt on the wall, bacteria could be hiding in it safe from chemicals or insulated from heat).

Animals (as well as humans) naturally have billions of microbes in their system. So, when we consume the animal or animal by-products, we could potentially ingest these microbes. Some of these microbes are not harmful to us, while others, such as some strains of e-coli, can be deadly. So care needs to be taken to ensure that these particularly harmful microbes do not reach the consumer.

Farm Cleanliness

The example of eggs that had salmonella were traced back to the farm where the chickens were raised. This farm was extremely unsanitary with piles of manure that looked as though it had never been cleaned. Eggs have many defenses to prevent against disease on the inside of the egg; sometimes those defenses can be breached. This farm was so unsanitary that those defenses were broken on a large scale, and salmonella ended up on the inside of the egg.

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