Always carry a marker.
That’s one of the simple steps hog barn workers can take to eliminate the risk of broken needles ending up in the processing line at the slaughter plants, says Maple Leaf pig procurement manager Robert Mackay.
“Just mark the pig,” Mackay said during a presentation at the Manitoba Swine Seminar.
“Have a marker with you so that if you do break a needle, you can mark that pig right away.”
Advances in needles and improvements in worker skill mean few broken needles end up in carcasses at the packing plant these days, but public sensitivity about food safety issues is also much higher.
Mackay said no one can afford to see a needle point end up in the meat at the grocery store.
“Just one incident of needle fragments in pork can have a pretty devastating effect for our industry.”
A needle point was recently found in a pig at the Maple Leaf plant in Brandon, causing the company to issue a warning to producers.
There is little reason for producers to deliberately attempt to sneak through needle-containing pigs. Maple Leaf compensates producers for pigs put down because of broken needle points.
“We don’t want the producer to ship the pig,” said Mackay.
The Brandon plant contains X-ray and metal detection machinery to catch needles, but that’s not a 100 percent guarantee.
Marking a pig immediately so it doesn’t get lost amongst its pen mates is essential, Mackay said. That way the pig can be euthanized and disposed of before ending up in the slaughter line.
It helps for injections to be done by two people because then there is someone to catch problems like a broken needle.
Workers should also ensure that the needle is still attached when moving to the next pig, that it is not bent and that it does not have burrs. Workers should never attempt to straighten a bent needle. Instead, they should carry spares.
Mackay said all barn workers should be regularly reminded about good needling practices, and everyone should watch the Manitoba Pork Council’s DVD on safe injection practices.
“There are no more excuses for needle fragments in pork.”