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PLoS One. 2018 Feb 9;13(2):e0192550. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0192550. eCollection 2018.

The safety and quality of pork and poultry meat imports for the common European market received at border inspection post Hamburg Harbour between 2014 and 2015.

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Institute for Food Quality and Food Safety and Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses (RIZ), University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Hannover, Germany.
Border Inspection Post Hamburg Harbour, Civil Authority for Health and Consumer Protection, Hamburg, Germany.


Though imports of products of animal origin into the European Union (EU) have to comply with legal requirements and quality standards of the community, food consignment rejections at external EU borders have been increasing in recent years. This study explored microbiological metrics according to national target and critical values valid for samples at consumer level of 498 fresh poultry meat and 136 fresh pork filets from consignments subjected to physical checks during clearing at the border inspection post Hamburg harbour between January 2014 and December 2015 with ISO standard methods. Quantitative results indicated that critical thresholds for aerobic counts, Enterobacteriaceae, and E. coli were never surpassed. Merely for staphylococci, one poultry sample (0.2%) and 10 pork samples (9.3%) exceeded the critical limit (3.7 log cfu/g). However, qualitative analyses revealed that, Staphylococcus aureus was present in 16% and 10% of all poultry and pork samples, respectively, though no methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus could be confirmed. Moreover, E. coli was present in 50% and 67% of all pork and poultry samples, respectively, and thereof 33 isolates were confirmed as extended-spectrum β-lactamase-producing E. coli. Only 1.2% of the poultry samples were unacceptable due to the presence of Salmonella spp., whereas they were not detected in any pork sample. Campylobacter spp. were not detected in any sample. Though imported pork and poultry meat complies mostly with national market requirements, it might pose a potential risk to public health, especially for a direct or indirect foodborne transmission of imported, uncommon strains of zoonotic bacteria.

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