Human Pathogens in Marine Mammal Meat – A Northern Perspective

Authors

  • M. Tryland,

    Corresponding author
    1. Section for Arctic Veterinary Medicine, Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Tromsø, Norway
    • Correspondence:

      M. Tryland. Section for Arctic Veterinary Medicine, Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Stakkevollveien 23, Tromsø N-9010, Norway. Tel.: +47 77665400; Fax: +47 77694911; E-mail: morten.tryland@nvh.no

    Search for more papers by this author
  • T. Nesbakken,

    1. Section for Food Safety, Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway
    Search for more papers by this author
  • L. Robertson,

    1. Section for Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, Department of Food Safety and Infection Biology, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway
    Search for more papers by this author
  • D. Grahek-Ogden,

    1. Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety, Oslo, Norway
    Search for more papers by this author
  • B. T. Lunestad

    1. National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, Bergen, Norway
    Search for more papers by this author

Summary

Only a few countries worldwide hunt seals and whales commercially. In Norway, hooded and harp seals and minke whales are commercially harvested, and coastal seals (harbour and grey seals) are hunted as game. Marine mammal meat is sold to the public and thus included in general microbiological meat control regulations. Slaughtering and dressing of marine mammals are performed in the open air on deck, and many factors on board sealing or whaling vessels may affect meat quality, such as the ice used for cooling whale meat and the seawater used for cleaning, storage of whale meat in the open air until ambient temperature is reached, and the hygienic conditions of equipment, decks, and other surfaces. Based on existing reports, it appears that meat of seal and whale does not usually represent a microbiological hazard to consumers in Norway, because human disease has not been associated with consumption of such foods. However, as hygienic control on marine mammal meat is ad hoc, mainly based on spot-testing, and addresses very few human pathogens, this conclusion may be premature. Additionally, few data from surveys or systematic quality control screenings have been published. This review examines the occurrence of potential human pathogens in marine mammals, as well as critical points for contamination of meat during the slaughter, dressing, cooling, storage and processing of meat. Some zoonotic agents are of particular relevance as foodborne pathogens, such as Trichinella spp., Toxoplasma gondii, Salmonella and Leptospira spp. In addition, Mycoplasma spp. parapoxvirus and Mycobacterium spp. constitute occupational risks during handling of marine mammals and marine mammal products. Adequate training in hygienic procedures is necessary to minimize the risk of contamination on board, and acquiring further data is essential for obtaining a realistic assessment of the microbiological risk to humans from consuming marine mammal meat.

Ancillary