Danish government to overhaul efforts on curbing MRSA

By Poorna Rodrigo

- Last updated on GMT

Denmark has done a lot to raise standards in the pig meat sector
Denmark has done a lot to raise standards in the pig meat sector

Related tags: Pig meat, Pork

The Danish government is ready to ‘overhaul’ its efforts on curbing the MRSA bacterium – found on 68% of Danish finishing pig herds in 2014 alone.

The news comes after the country’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised the ministry for environment and food over lack of action. Meanwhile, pig meat industry experts say the Danish pork meat export sector is intact despite MRSA.

Since 2010, the ministry for environment and food has “not worked effectively to curb the incidence of domestic-MRSA”​, the PAC said, adding: “It has not been able to develop a control strategy due to insufficient knowledge of the area, inter alia, modes of transmission and the impact of the various measures.”

The PAC was particularly unhappy given that antibiotic resistant MRSA is primarily found in pigs – Denmark’s key meat sector – and can spread to humans.

‘Unsatisfactory’

It noted that it was “unsatisfactory that the ministry for food has neither assessed the risks or prioritised action against livestock-MRSA taking into account the cost of health care”​.

Danish minister for environment and food Eva Kjer Hansen said in statement regarding the problem: “It should be rectified, and I have therefore launched an overhaul of how the ministry for environment and food optimised ordering, handling and dissemination of research throughout the organisation.”

Jens Hansen, spokesperson for Denmark’s leading pork processor Danish Crown, told GlobalMeatNews there was “no indication”​ MRSA had any negative impact on the country’s pig meat export sector.

It was “very unlikely that ​[consumers] get it​ [MRSA] from meat, as long as the meat is properly handled,”​ said Martin Andersson, head of secretariat at Seges - an advisory service owned by the trade organisation Danish Agriculture and Food Council [Landbrug & Fødevarer] said.

However, in order to curb MRSA it was important to prevent the bacteria from coming “into pig farms as well as going out of farms”​, Andersson said. “Pig farmers are being screened for MRSA every time they go to hospital.”

‘Human chaos’

That said, eradicating the bacterium was impossible, Mr Andersson stressed, adding it could only be controlled. “But it is important to prevent the human chaos,”​ he urged.

Denmark had done a lot to raise standards in the pig meat sector, notably cutting its antibiotics usage, boosting its pig meat export sector’s reputation, Andersson said. He added that the industry was hoping to reduce the use of antibiotics even more next year.

In 2014, Denmark exported Danish Krone DKK30.46 billion’s ($4.65bn) worth of pig meat - slightly down from DKK31.98bn ($4.88bn) in 2013, according to Danish Agriculture and Food Council statistics. 

Meanwhile, the PAC report said a “growing number of people are registered infected by livestock-MRSA” ​in Denmark.

Action plan

The committee acknowledged a ministry action plan for livestock-MRSA released in April (2015) included “long-term prevention strategy targets”​. However, the report blamed the ministry for “still not having any plans to prioritise efforts, taking into account the whole, for example, both health economics, business economics, and possibly other economic costs”.

The review stated that the ministry's “assessment of livestock-MRSA is based on a general knowledge on the disease risks to humans, but not on knowledge of the costs of healthcare and industry”.

Minister Hansen in her statement promised “that a detailed economic analysis” ​on the impact of MRSA will be undertaken.

Related topics: Denmark, Safety & Legislation, Pork

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1 comment

MRSA in pigs

Posted by David Burch,

Once MRSA is established in pig herds like in Denmark it is difficult to get rid of it.Reducing the use of antibiotics will have no impact as their use is low already. The increased prevalence in Denmark in recent years can only be attributed to the spread of the agent by contaminated breeding stock. I have great concern that the same thing will happen in GB and especially in N. Ireland where it already appears to have a hold, if nothing is done about it.

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