National survey for Salmonella in pigs, cattle and sheep at slaughter in Great Britain (1999–2000)


R.H. Davies, Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) – Weybridge, New Haw, Addlestone, Surrey, KT15 3NB, UK (e-mail:


Aims:  The objective of these surveys was to estimate the prevalence of faecal carriage of Salmonella in healthy pigs, cattle and sheep at slaughter, and of pig carcase contamination with Salmonella. These data can be used as a baseline against which future change in Salmonella prevalence in these species at slaughter can be monitored.

Methods and Results:  In this first randomized National Survey for faecal carriage of Salmonella in slaughter pigs, cattle and sheep in Great Britain, 2509 pigs, 891 cattle and 973 sheep were sampled in 34 pig abattoirs and 117 red meat abattoirs in England, Scotland and Wales. Carriage of Salmonella in 25 g caecal contents was identified in 578 (23·0% pigs) but in only 134 (5·3%) of carcase swabs. The predominant Salmonella serovars found in both types of sample were S. Typhimurium (11·1% caeca, 2·1% carcases) and S. Derby (6·3% caeca, 1·6% carcases). The main definitive phage types (DT) of S. Typhimurium found were DT104 (21·9% of caecal S. Typhimurium isolates), DT193 (18·7%), untypable strains (17·6%), DT208 (13·3%) and U302 (13·3%). Three isolates of S. Enteritidis (PTs 13A and 4) and one enrofloxacin-resistant S. Choleraesuis were also isolated. A positive ‘meat-juice ELISA‘ was obtained from 15·2% of pigs at 40% optical density (O.D.) cut-off level and 35·7% at 10% cut-off. There was poor correlation between positive ELISA results or carcase contamination and the caecal carriage of Salmonella. The ratio of carcase contamination to caecal carriage rates was highest in abattoirs from the midland region of England and in smaller abattoirs. In cattle and sheep 1 g samples of rectal faeces were tested. Two isolates (i.e. 0·2%) were recovered from cattle, one each of S. Typhimurium, DT193 and DT12. One sheep sample (0·1%) contained a Salmonella, S. Typhimurium DT41. In a small subsidiary validation exercise using 25 g of rectal faeces from 174 cattle samples, three (1·7%) isolates of Salmonella (S. Typhimurium DT104, S. Agama, S. Derby) were found.

Conclusions:  The carriage rate of Salmonella in prime slaughter cattle and sheep in Great Britain was very low compared with pigs. This suggests that future control measures should be focused on reduction of Salmonella infection on pig farms and minimizing contamination of carcases at slaughter.

Significance and Impact of the Study:  This work has set baseline figures for Salmonella carriage in these species slaughtered for human consumption in Great Britain. These figures were collected in a representative way, which enables them to be used for monitoring trends and setting control targets.