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Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2009 Sep;6(7):767-76. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2009.0315.

Can stress in farm animals increase food safety risk?

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Livestock Behavior Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.


All farm animals will experience some level of stress during their lives. Stress reduces the fitness of an animal, which can be expressed through failure to achieve production performance standards, or through disease and death. Stress in farm animals can also have detrimental effects on the quality of food products. However, although a common assumption of a potential effect of stress on food safety exists, little is actually known about how this interaction may occur. The aim of this review was to examine the current knowledge of the potential impact of stress in farm animals on food safety risk. Colonization of farm animals by enteric pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Campylobacter, and their subsequent dissemination into the human food chain are a major public health and economic concern for the food industries. This review shows that there is increasing evidence to demonstrate that stress can have a significant deleterious effect on food safety through a variety of potential mechanisms. However, as the impact of stress is difficult to precisely determine, it is imperative that the issue receives more research attention in the interests of optimizing animal welfare and minimizing losses in product yield and quality, as well as to food safety risks to consumers. While there is some evidence linking stress with pathogen carriage and shedding in farm animals, the mechanisms underlying this effect have not been fully elucidated. Understanding when pathogen loads on the farm are the highest or when animals are most susceptible to infection will help identifying times when intervention strategies for pathogen control may be most effective, and consequently, increase the safety of food of animal origin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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