Meat from ‘contaminated’ slaughterhouses: is it safe?

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In addition, animals for slaughter are not sensitive to the coronavirus, says Wim van der Poel. He conducts research at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), among other things, on food-borne viruses and viral diseases in animals. “There are no known infections of the coronavirus in, for example, pigs, cows and poultry. So the risk that the slaughter products are infected in this way is actually not present.”

Dead organism

Van der Poel does point to another possibility in slaughterhouses: that of so-called surface contamination. “If the employee who slaughters the animals is ill – and has appeared at work against the RIVM rules – then he can contaminate the slaughter product. The virus can survive on a dead organism for a short time, so the meat is infectious for a short time . “

However, Van der Poel says immediately: “There is a long time between the moment that an animal is slaughtered and the meat is eaten. Moreover, the virus may survive briefly on a dead organism, but unlike bacteria it can Do not multiply on it. So if there are virus particles on the meat, they slowly die. The chance of survival on meat products is simply very low, also because of the time that passes before such a product is in the store. “

“At least a few days”

It is difficult to say exactly how long it takes before any virus particles on meat are completely dead. But also according to the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), which is responsible for the supervision of slaughterhouses, it is very unlikely that there are virus particles on a piece of meat that you have in your home. According to a spokesperson, there are at least a few days between the slaughter and the moment the meat is on your plate. “And I hope you bake or fry the meat. If there were any virus particles on it, they would certainly die.”

WUR scientist Van der Poel speaks of a theoretical risk, comparable to the risk of any food product that comes into contact with someone with covid-19. “At the most it concerns surface contamination, where the virus dies slowly. In practice, the risk of this is very small.”

“All in all, meat simply does not pose a risk,” says the spokesperson for supervisor NVWA. “Of course, it always applies that kitchen hygiene is still important. So wash your hands, keep raw and prepared products apart and do not put meat on the shelf with vegetables.”


Incidentally, there is currently an investigation into the coronavirus in pigs. Previous (foreign) studies showed that, like other slaughter animals, they cannot be infected with the virus. Nevertheless, Minister Schouten of Agriculture initiated an investigation at the end of April, “because pigs are susceptible to a number of human diseases”.

The minister wrote to the House of Representatives that scientists do not expect pigs to test positive, “but it is important to rule this out.” The results of the study are expected in August.


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