An official veterinarian (OV) from the SFA inspects all domestic animals and farmed game slaughtered in commercial abattoirs on-site both before and after slaughter. Wild game are inspected after slaughter. In some cases, an official auxiliary (OA) can perform inspection after slaughter but final responsibility is always on OV.
Remote meat control means that the OV inspects the animal before slaughter (ante mortem inspection, AMI) and the carcass with organs after slaughter (post mortem inspection, PMI) by digital devices at a remote place, off-site. The trained technical support person (TSP), employed by abattoir, streams by a mobile phone images and sounds in real time to the OV. OV is receiving the information on personal computer or mobile phone on remote location. The OV instructs the TSP via mobile phone about the practical steps in the AMI and PMI. The results are documented as usual in SFA database and communicated with the abattoir and GHE according the routine procedure.
To make the usage of digital devices on remote basis as a flexible alternative, the control regulations at the European Union level has to get complementary flexibility. The results from our Remote Meat Control project can be used to achieve the changes needed. Our goal is to create AMI and PMI flexibility for low-capacity abattoirs and GHE in remote areas.
The majority of abattoirs and GHEs in Sweden are small processing less than 1,000 livestock units per year (one unit = on cattle or five pigs or ten sheep). Many of these food business operators (FBO) are active only during certain periods of the year, and often only a few days a week depending on, among other things, the availability of animals, weather conditions, permitted hunting times, and demand from customers. Therefore, many of the FBOs find it difficult to anticipate and plan their activities, which in turn affects the need of AMI and PMI they may have regarding the current need for an OV’s presence on-site.
There is documented lack of OV staff and the working environment can be very demanding. Travels to and from facilities are many and often long for control staff. The difficulty of planning in some cases involves short notice from the FBOs. The travelling has a negative environmental effect and creates a situation where the SFA may find it difficult to conduct cost-effective control. The control can be difficult to adapt in time to the needs for control, hamper the FBOs flow giving logistic and economic consequences.
According to current regulations, the OV must be present on-site at the abattoir or GHE, or were the animals are in emergency slaughter or in slaughter at the holding of provenance in order to carry out the AMI and PMI at the abattoir or GHE. Therefore, before remote control can be introduced EU rules need to be expanded with complementary flexibility for this new technics.
Easier to meet needs at short notice
Small abattoirs and GHEs often need inspection at short notice, which the SFA, with documented shortage of OV staff, may have difficulties in planning. With remote control through digital technology, FBOs would be given better opportunities to be able to get AMI and PMI at short notice. This applies not least to abattoirs in sparsely populated areas where the travel time for control staff today is often long.
A tool for achieving the goals of Agenda 2030
The development of remote AMI and PMI will contribute to achieve the climate and sustainability goals in the international UN-program Agenda 2030 and European Union’s Green Deal developing control into a more environmentally sustainable business. Reduced travel back and forth to abattoirs and GHEs reduces the impact on the environment.
Better planning and working environment for employees at the SFA
There is a documented lack of veterinarians in Sweden and this shortage is reflected in lack of OV staff in meat control. With remote AMI and PMI, the SFA could plan its staffing better, not least in times of low staffing, for example, in the event of illness. In addition, less valuable working time would be spent on transportation. An improved working environment for the control staff in the form of reduced travel time by car is another advantage.
Better quality in control
Digital technologies make it easier to teach, calibrate the staff as well as develop both AMI and PMI. Many judgements in meat inspection can be very subjective. Some findings are more difficult than others to judge. Digital devises creates a possibility for OV to get a second opinion in difficult cases. SFA can already make calibration in more quick and precise manner using digital devices in real time. The goal is to work continuously for getting the SFA’s control staff to perform controls in a uniform way.
The SFA is convinced that there are motives to work for the EU rules to be developed so that remote AMI and PMI becomes possible. Sweden has already taken such initiatives. Development of control with the help of digital tools is ongoing in several different places in the world, including in Sweden, and the SFA is a leading governmental agency in this respect.
Study of methods for digital inspection after slaughter
The SFA initiated and financed a study 2019 that developed and tested a method for PMI by using digital imaging and sound transmission. The study performed by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) showed that:
PMI of pigs can be performed using a standard smart mobile phone of good quality mounted on the hand.
Approximately 2–3 Mbit/s bandwidth is required for the technology to work.
The technology is reliable when inspecting after slaughter and is about as good as on-site inspection.
The technology does not appear to affect the probability of documenting the findings in the carcass and associated organs during PMIs.
No clear negative consequences for food safety, animal health, or animal welfare could be demonstrated when the technology was used in PMIs.
Since 2021 the SFA is working to develop a model for remote control in slaughter and game handling. The model will create an overall picture of where, when, and how remote control can be used while maintaining food safety, animal health and animal protection. In addition, the system must be financially defensible with high level of IT-security.
More testing on-site has been performed in different small abattoirs in the country. General attitudes to remote meat control amongst OVs, heads of the control, abattoirs, and GHEs. Co-operations are done together with SLU and the Research Institutes of Sweden (rise.se)has also been conducted.
In order to be able to develop EU legislation, information and results about the work need to be disseminated in several ways, including through scientific publications. When the European Commission works as a risk manager, it turns to its risk-assessing sister authority the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) to obtain scientific support. The EFSA does its work by studying published scientific literature. Therefore, it is of great importance that all work that is done is published regularly in peer reviewed journals.
Co-operation for developing Risk based meat safety assurance system
Sweden is represented in Cost-Action Risk based meat inspection system (RIBMINS) via SLU. Swedish delegates are today Ivar Vågsholm, professor and Arja Helena Kautto, DVM, both specialists in veterinary public health.
Many different countries, around the world, are working together in smaller workings groups. More information that is general concerning the ambition of development can be seen in www.cost.eu and specific information of meat inspection development can be seen in www.ribmins.com
Grate digital developing projects are going on using different kind of digital technics and focusing on different problematics in meat safety. Some of the projects are going on in Denmark (www.vetvision.dk), Norway (www.mattillsynet with digital food chain information, www.animalia.no many projects), Italy (www.farm4trade.com).
SFA has been disseminating information for example in annual Nordic control Conference in Copenhagen 2022, Annual Finnish Veterinary Meeting November 2022, in annual RIBMNS Conferences in 2022 in Cordoba and Bucharest in 2023. See further on the RIBMINS website:
RIBMINS were also organizing a workshop in the SafePork23 in May 2023. See further:
Further work within the EU during 2023 and 2024
The results of various projects are going to be published regularly and presented in line with Article 6 of (EU) 2019/627 with regard to informing the Commission and other Member States. This is the basis for any further work at the EU level, such as changes in EU legislation or continued research projects. The work at the EU level is represented by the government. SFA assists the government in this work within its area of responsibility.
Until now the Remote Meat Control project has been presented for the EU’s CVOs in a monthly meeting in February 2023 under the Swedish Presidency.