Cysticercosis in cattle – simplification of meat inspection

Bovine cysticercosis (bladder worm) is a disease caused by the larvae (cysticercus bovis) of the tapeworm Taenia saginata. Poorly cooked beef, which includes larval cysts, can cause the human infection. In humans, T. saginata infection is usually asymptomatic, but symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, allergic reactions, pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction, cholangitis, and cholecystitis have been reported.

T. saginata eggs infect cattle only by human faeces, and cysticercosis does not spread between animals. The parasite is uncommon in Finland. In meat inspection the detection of the parasite has based on visual inspection of the incisions of head muscles and a more detailed laboratory examination of possible changes in muscles from at least six-week-old bovines. According to the revised EU legislation, the incision of carcasses can be left undone, if the animal is younger than 8 months or if it is younger than 20 months and has never been on pasture.  It is also possible that the incision of carcasses from older animals can be left undone. Making of these incisions and handling the head are the most difficult and heaviest phase in meat inspection. In addition, the incisions lower the value of the head meat.

The goal of the project is

  • to study whether the slaughter animals are exposed to T. saginata,
  • to assess the prevalence of the parasite in meat inspection,
  • to investigate whether it would be possible to reject bovine cheek muscle incisions in meat inspection, and
  • to improve the skills of meat inspectors in detecting changes caused by T. saginata.

Timetable

2019 - 2022

Funding

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto)

Project group

  • Antti Oksanen, Veterinary Bacteriology and Pathology
  • Marjatta Rahkio, Meat Inspection
  • Pirkko Tuominen, Risk Assessment
  • Petra Pasonen, Risk Assessment
  • Suvi Joutsen, Risk Assessment
  • Lea Rentsch, Meat Inspection
  • Idalina Ukkola-Cavalcanti, Veterinary Bacteriology and Pathology

Additional information