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Needle-free injection urged for swine

Manitoba Pork Council and Maple Leaf Foods urge pork producers to switch to 
needle-less injection system after needle fragments found at Brandon plant

Hog producers are being urged to consider needle-less injection systems following the discovery of needle fragments at Maple Leaf Foods’ Brandon pork plant.

“I think we’re going to look at pushing that technology more and more, because the issue of food safety is very important,” said Mark Fynn, an animal care specialist with the Manitoba Pork Council.

In January, needle fragments were picked up by screening devices at the Brandon processing plant, prompting publicity and public concern.

Although many safeguards are in place to prevent needle fragments from entering the food supply, Fynn said a move to needle-free injection methods would eliminate the risk entirely.

“The injector shoots a very fine stream of the medication into the pig, with a lot of pressure behind it,” he said, adding the injection site is much smaller than that of a traditional hypodermic needle.

However, needle-less injectors are more costly, and require rigorous cleaning.

Manufacturers are also working to make the needle-less systems more user friendly, said Fynn.

Hopefully, more information on the systems will lead to wider adoption, he said.

Those who use traditional needles need to be vigilant, said Robert MacKay of Maple Leaf Foods.

There is no excuse for fragments ending up at the processing plant, he said.

“After every injection, you should be checking that the needle is still intact, checking that the needle is not bent, and that the needle is free of burrs,” he told producers at the annual Manitoba Swine Seminar.

“Never, under any circumstance, try to straighten a needle — ever.”

Using the right-size needle for the right size of pig is also important, he said, adding that if a needle does break off during an injection, Maple Leaf offers its producers a clear incentive not to ship the pig.

“We will reimburse you for that pig,” MacKay said. “We do not want the producer to ship the pig to market, we want the producer to euthanize the animal.”

He noted that producers do make use of this policy, and that Maple Leaf does make payouts once the appropriate paperwork has been done.

“Just one incidence of needle fragments in pork can have a pretty devastating effect on our industry,” he said. “Working together as an industry, we can provide the safest pork products to our customers.”

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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