Swine Cluster 1

The use of tools related to molecular characterization, systemic analysis of stakeholders and geomatics for identification of the principal vectors and contamination sources by bacteria and viral indicators at farm 

and slaughterhouse level

Project leader

Ann Letellier, Research Chair in Food Safety, University of Montreal, Faculty of Veterinary Medecine.   


Project objective

To identify vectors and microbial contamination sources among herds and slaughterhouse using geomatic, systemic and genomic tools.   


Summary of the project

Scientific literature contains very little information concerning sources of contamination outside the farm. In this project, we propose an intervention on the route from farm to slaughterhouse as a first step to better understanding sources of contamination and the relationships between stakeholders with regard to contamination. This first step will assist the industry to improve biosecurity measures not only at the farm level but also at every stage in the food chain. Improving biosecurity is a guaranteed means of improving long-term industry profitability and sustainability. Effective biosecurity at the farm and industry level is extremely important in mitigating the risk of introducing and/or spreading animal diseases.    

The design of the project is such that the anticipated results will be very useful to the Canadian pork industry because we aim to identify main movements and traffic related to farms and slaughterhouses within a specific area. Using microbial indicators, geospatial data (GPS) and analysis and characterization of interactions between stakeholders, we also intend to identify the main sources of contamination and the stages or practices and attitudes related to an increased risk of contamination. At the end of the project, we propose to inform every level of the pork industry food chain (in a confidential manner) of the impact that each of their sectors has on the spread of contamination, suggest recommendations to reduce the risk and ask them to become involved in the food safety process as a primary requirement for maintaining marketability and competitiveness.   


Significant achievements

Based on a literature review of risk factors associated with farm and slaughterhouse contamination by microbes, all researchers implicated in the project elaborated together, the list of criteria to be considered for the selection of major stakeholders. First of all, we had to limit the study to a specific level by selecting only the finishing barn to focus on a more precise picture between farms and the slaughterhouse. We  also agreed that with the timeframe of the project and the budget alotted for the project, we had to restrict the number of stakeholders. To be sure that we will have enough infor-mation related to most important stakeholders, we decided to choose fewer stakeholders but to select the most signi-ficant in a single cooperative network.    

The protocol was elaborated and validated by the team members. After many efforts to obtain industry collaboration, one slaughterhouse was identified: Olymel in Princeville, Québec. With the veterinarian, we started discussions to identify a network of farms (cooperative) and related transportation networks. We discussed with the veterinarian of the cooperative about the project. Based on the willingness for participation of producers in the project, the veterinarian identified 10 farms in the cooperative, according to specific criteria (salmonella history, E.coli disease, fattening farm...). In the end, the most important stakeholders were retained. To date, the network includes one slaughterhouse, farms, delivery trucks, feed supplier, veterinarian, technicians, and meat salvager. Periodic samplings was on-going during a one year period to isolate indicator microorganisms (Salmonella, E.coli and viruses). The frequency of specific sampling will be determined by the specific scenario of movements of stakeholders on an annual basis.     

The next step was to analyze by means of management practices the dynamics of inter-relationships and the various concerns or issues of the stakeholders. This is on-going with a complete questionnaire for interviews and will be followed by illustration and description of types of inter-organisational relationships seen in the field. 

To complete the picture, spatio-temporal data collection devices was installed on selected stakeholders equipment and machinery in 10 farms associated to one slaughterhouse to provide data for geostatistical analyses. Geospatial analysis tools have been set up to correlate the main risk factors in space and time and provide an integrated and systemized view of the phenomenon. Sophisticated geostatistical approaches (spatial data warehouse, data mining, spatial autocorrelation, etc.) will be combined to overlay microbiology data with macro elements such as terrain topology, flow and transit of stakeholders and material. The tools, techniques and expertise from different areas (data management, technical knowledge, ethics, etc.) will be integrated to support traceability, monitoring, and decision-making in the context of continuous risk assessment related to possible latent crises. Based on mobile technologies and extended communication networks, this element of the proposal aims at detecting early signs of an emerging crisis and at networking the actors to quickly resolve the situation prior to the occurrence of the crisis rather than mitigate the effects of an actual crisis occurrence.


Associated documents