On-Farm Prevention of Broken Needles
Broken needles found in pork is a serious food safety hazard. Although such occurrences are rare, even one incident can damage consumer confidence in the industry. A commitment to zero tolerance by the whole pork chain is the only way to prevent broken needles from reaching consumers. Producers can play a key role in achieving this goal by following the practices described in this Factsheet.
Prevent Needles from Breaking
Use proper injection techniques
Adopt good management practices
Adopt new technologies
Use detectable needles
The CQA program requires producers to use only detectable needles for injecting pigs. This type of needle can be more easily detected by high-speed metal detectors in packing plants than traditional needles. These needles are now commercially available to pork producers in Canada.
Caution: Detectable needles do not replace proper injection techniques and good management practices. Detectable needles that break must still be reported prior to shipping. In addition, packing plant metal detectors are not entirely fool proof in finding foreign materials. Some cuts of meat are not easily checked by the equipment and false positives or negatives are possible.
Use needle-free injectors
Needle-free injectors are a recent development. These injectors can be used for all sizes of pigs and are best suited for injecting large numbers of animals at one time, for example, when vaccinating. In addition to eliminating the hazard of broken needles, these products claim other benefits:
Note: Injecting animal health products with needle-free injectors may be considered as off-label drug use. Consult your veterinarian before using this method.
Protocols for Handling Broken Needles
Needles can break during injections. When a needle breaks, take the following steps to ensure the incident is handled appropriately. Step 1. Mark the animal immediately
Step 2. Remove the broken needle
Note: If the needle is not removed, it could lead to discovery either in the processing plant or in a consumer's kitchen. In addition, allowing a broken needle to remain could compromise the animal's well-being.
Step 3. Slaughter the animal on-farm
Step 4. Inform your marketing agency and/or your packer
Note: Proper notification to Ontario Pork and packers must include personal contact. Make sure you talk to someone. Do not just leave a message or send an email. Shipping and/or receiving an animal that may contain a broken needle is significant. Notify everyone affected at least seven days in advance. Prior notice allows for proper arrangements to be made for the hog.
Pork producers can play a key role in prevention of broken needles. The whole pork chain must support zero tolerance to prevent broken needles from reaching consumers.
This Factsheet was authored by Wayne Du, Pork Quality Assurance Program Lead, Fergus, OMAFRA. The author wishes to thank representatives from Ontario Pork, Maple Leaf Pork, Quality Meat Packers Ltd., Conestoga Meat Packers Ltd. and Drs. Janet Alsop and Tim Blackwell of OMAFRA for their valuable input in the development of this Factsheet.
1. Canadian Pork Council. Canadian Quality Assurance (CQA ) Producer
Figure 1. Injection Techniques for Swine. (Note: This technique does not apply to hip injections of sows and boars.)
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