Maurice Murungi receives award for best oral presentation by students at Safe Pork 2015 conference

Maurice Murungi, a graduate fellow attached to the Urban Zoo project, receives the award for best oral presentation by students at the Safe Pork 2015 conference (photo credit: ILRI/Fred Unger).

With rapidly increasing populations and unprecedented rates of urbanization, the demand for meat also rises. Much of this demand is being met by poultry and pig meat as production is well placed to scale up because of short cycles, large numbers of offspring and ability to grow fast on cereal feeds.

In the case of pork, however, one crucial barrier must be overcome if it is to contribute optimally to feeding the future: pork safety. Indeed, since prehistoric times, pork has been subject to taboos and it has been argued that this is because of the large number of parasites and pathogens that pigs can carry.

The biennial Safe Pork conference is the premier meeting for researchers, industry and policymakers concerned with the safety of pork. This year, the meeting was held on 7-10 September in Porto, a coastal city in Portugal, and was co-organized by Spanish and Portuguese universities.

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) presented findings from the Livestock and Fish and Agriculture for Nutrition and Health research programs in the smallholder pig sectors of Uganda and Vietnam as well as from the Urban Zoo project on urban livestock value chains in Kenya and work on possible links between pork production and antimicrobial resistance.

Three ILRI scientists (Delia Grace, Maurice Murungi and Fred Unger) attended as well as visiting scientist Pablo Alarcon. Although our delegation was small, our impact was high and ILRI was awarded two of the four ‘best in show’ prizes: Maurice accepting the prize for best oral presentation by students on behalf of the Urban Zoo team and Delia the prize for best poster on behalf of the PigRisk team.

The conference was an excellent snapshot of the big issues in pork safety. There were several presentations on the most serious zoonotic pathogens in modern pork industries: Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria.

Emerging pathogens were of obvious concern with presentations on hepatitis E and livestock-associated Staphylococcus. In his sum up, the chair said that antimicrobial resistance was the issue of the day; this was witnessed by two sessions on this important topic. Both economics and One Health had a profile.

Overall, the focus of the conference was mostly on intensive swine production in Europe and North America. This had the side effect of drawing more attention to ILRI presentations as participants were interested to hear views from the South and in a globalized world, disease is not a regional problem.

As was pointed out, Denmark may successfully reduce treatment regimes from 20 milligrams to 10, but if countries elsewhere are using thousands of tons of antibiotics a year, their achievement will have little impact in curbing rising antimicrobial resistance.

The conference format was all plenaries, increasing the salience of presentations, and industry was well represented from both pharmaceutical and production sectors.

All in all, the conference was a good opportunity to disseminate ILRI research, get updated on pork safety and network for future collaboration. The next Safe Pork meeting will be held in 2017 in Brazil.

Listed below are the ILRI presentations at the Safe Pork 2015 conference.

Assessing and understanding food safety risk practices in Nairobi pork food system: A value chain approach
Murungi, M.K.; M.; Muinde, P.; Akoko, J.; Rushton, J.; Fèvre, E.M.; Dominguez-Salas, P.; Muloi, D.; Häsler, B.; Alarcon, P.

Food safety challenges in smallholder pig value chains in Vietnam: From an assessment to feasible interventions using an integrated approach
Unger, F.; Lapar, L.; Van Hung, P.; Dang-Xuan, S.; Hong Ngan, P.; Rich, K.M.; Nguyen, H.; Grace, D.

Market based approaches for food safety and animal health interventions in smallholder pig systems: The case of Vietnam
Rich, K.M.; Thu Huyen, N.T.; Nam Ha, D.; Duong Nga, N.T.; Xuan, V.K.; Trung, N.X.; Van Long, T.; Van Hung, P.; Unger, F.; Hamza, K.; Lapar, L.

Present and future use of antimicrobials in pigs in developing countries and case studies from Uganda and Vietnam
Grace, D.; Unger, F.; Roesel, K.; Tinega, G.; Ndoboli, D.; Sinh, D.X.; Nguyen-Viet, H.; Robinson, T.

Risk-based approach for food safety applied to pork value chain in Vietnam
Nguyen-Viet, H.; Sinh, D.X.; Hanh, T.T.T.; Unger, F.; Grace, D.; Phuc, P.D.; Makita, K.

Serological and molecular investigation for brucellosis in swine in selected districts of Uganda
Erume, J.; Roesel, K.; Dione, M.M.; Ejobi, F.; Mboowa, G.; Kungu, J.; Akol, J.; Pezo, D.; El-Adawy, H.; Melzer, F.; Elschner, M.; Neubauer, H.; Grace, D.

Blog post contributed by ILRI scientists Delia Grace and Fred Unger