Application of European standards for health and quality control of game meat on game ranches in South Africa
The health and quality compliance of game carcasses (n = 295) intended for the South African export market and aspiring to comply with the strict hygiene requirements of the European Union were compared with game carcasses (n = 330) available for the local market and currently not subjected to meat safety legislation. Samples were collected in similar seasons and geographical areas in South Africa from 2006 to 2009. Aerobic plate counts (APC) of the heart blood verified that both groups possessed similar ante mortem bacterial status. For health compliance APC, tests for Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp. and Staphylococcus aureus were performed on the carcasses. Surfaces of the local carcasses were swabbed using the European Enviro-biotrace sponge technique at 3 and 72 h post mortem. Unskinned but eviscerated export carcasses in the abattoir were skinned and sampled by incision using a cork borer 72h post mortem. Temperature andpHreadings were recorded at 3 and 72 h post mortem from the longissimus dorsi muscle and the readings at 3 h differed (P = 0.035). Temperatures at 72 h were lower for export than local carcasses (P < 0.001) because of earlier introduction and maintenance of the cold chain. The pH readings also differed between groups at 3 and 72 h (P<0.001). APC results for the local group exceeded the maximum permissible count (<105). S. aureus results showed differences (P <0.001), with readings from the local group being higher. The same tendency was exhibited for E. coli (P = 0.008). Imposition of hygiene guidelines for game ranchers producing meat for the local market is therefore recommended.