of Veterinary Medicine
The agenda for today included several lectures and tours of the national reference laboratories for Escherichia coli and antimicrobial resistance. Concurrent with our visit was a conference for animal welfare officers and we were able to view the lecture hall in which they were holding seminars. While we were in Germany, there was an outbreak of Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli and our schedule was changed so we were unable to view the national reference laboratory for E. coli since they were very busy. However, we received some preliminary information about the outbreak investigation. The outbreak agent was identified as hemorrhagic E. coli, but the strain was unknown at the time. The clinical signs of the illness for those affected included kidney failure as the illness progressed. Three confirmed deaths were reported, but the agent was identified to be a food borne infection with the source of infection unknown. They suspected a salad related item to be the source, but further investigate is needed.
Our first lecture was with Dr. Burgdorf who is in the department of scientific event management. She gave us an overview of what the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung role is in public health and food safety. She described the institute’s establishment was under public law and it is under the responsibility of the federal ministry of food, agriculture, and consumer protection. The institute itself is a completely independent organization from political parties and business corporations in order to allow solely scientific assessment and research without influence from these entities. The BfR is made up of nine departments. They include: administration, risk communication, scientific services, biological safety, chemicals safety, safety of consumer products, safety in the food chain, and experimental toxicology and ZEBET (alternative methods to animal experiments). At the BfR there are animals in which they use in their research including cattle, sheep, poultry, and aqua culture that holds mussels.
The main objective of the institute is to perform qualified scientific assessment independent of influences from political, business, and social circles. Sixteen federal states of Germany with their own ministry and food controls collaborate together to enforce food safety and to work on standardization on the European level. The BfR has a 61.6 million euro budget with 6 million going towards research. The money is provided from mostly public funds and universities to fund research projects. The BfR is also active in international research including biopreparedness such as bioterrorism, biotracers, climate change and waterborne vibriosis (vibrioNet). A recent outbreak the BfR was involved in was in 2008. PFC or prefluorinated compounds found in fertilizers from industries were contaminating water ways and affecting fish.
Our next lecture topic was on the risk assessment of dioxin contamination in feed and food in Germany which occurred in the beginning of 2011. Dr. Spolders told us that dioxin contamination was first detected due to a triggering mechanism in a self check of a feed producer company. Vegetable feed fat is commonly used for livestock feed, however dioxin is mixed with fatty acids and is commonly used for technical processing such as paper processing. In a criminal act, the fatty acids used for technical processing containing dioxin were used in livestock feed as a substitute for vegetable fat. After the feed companies detected the contamination, the first notification was to the rapid alert system. This was done because dioxins from a human health standpoint accumulate in the food chain environment. Its toxic properties affect reproduction, can cause developmental problems, damage the immune system, affect hormones and can cause cancer. Samples from meat, eggs, and milk were taken to analyze for concentration of dioxin. Some samples of pork, meat of laying hens and eggs were found to be greater than the maximum of the European Union levels and this compound is not normally found in the environment. Next, regulatory actions were taken and 4,709 farms were on lock down if they received feed from 25 suspected feed producers. It was found that compound feeding has zero concentration of dioxin above the European Union maximum level. After final analysis, the conclusion was that some animal products did contain greater than the maximum level, but overall there are no adverse affects to people because most foods were below the maximum level. Additionally, even if contaminated products were consumed over a long period of time the body burden would hardly increase. The body burden refers to the amount of dioxins a human body has collected at the daily intake of dioxins due to exposure up to a point in life and the amount the body has in the long term. Therefore, it was determined that there was no health risk to be expected from the feed contamination of dioxin.
Next, we visited the national reference lab for antimicrobial resistance at the BfR under the direction of Dr. Andreas Schroeter. In particular, this lab studies salmonella. There are two laboratories that study salmonella one at the BfR and the other at the Robert Koch’s institute, which is equivalent to the United States Center for Disease Control. Most of the cases of salmonella include serovars from animals. Several techniques are used to determine salmonella resistance to antimicrobials including phage type bacteria viruses, hue determination, and turbidity. From 2000-2008, 33,000 salmonella isolates have been investigated and of the animal samples greater than 50% are resistant and 37% are multi-resistant. However, in food samples greater than 50% are also resistant. While in feed 72% are sensitive and only a small amount is multi-resistant. Therefore, it is important to understand that resistance depends on the source. The European Union in 2004 started a monitoring program for surveillance of salmonella antimicrobial resistance in laying hens, broilers, turkeys and pigs in order to decrease salmonellosis. The reference laboratories contributes by checking vaccination strains compared to disease since the vaccination strains differ in that they require a specific amino acid to proliferate. The increase in antimicrobial resistance warrants further research in order to develop new methods to combat infectious disease such as salmonella.
For dinner, we ended up going to an Italian restaurant. We had the most delicious spinach and garlic authentic Italian pizza. The waiter also recommended the ravioli which I had as well as the razor clam fettuccini, which two other girls had. If you do not like clams or mussels beware of the razor clam, it is very chewy and fishy, but it was great to try despite its worm like appearance. The pasta served with the calms was fantastic and tasted homemade and the ravioli and lasagna were amazing. After dinner, we stopped for ice cream which was a common theme on the trip and highly recommended because it is delicious. I had the pistachio and I was surprised to find that it tasted very similar to peanut butter.
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