Northern Ireland is now the benchmark for the rest of the United Kingdom in the campaign to reduce Salmonella levels in pigmeat by 50 per cent over the coming five years, Farming Life learned yesterday.
The driving force behind this initiative is a Salmonella testing campaign which was launched in 2003.
Funded by the Province's three slaughtering facilities - Grampian Country Pork, Stevenson's and Robert Grant - the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum-co-ordinated testing campaign is providing a unique insight into the Salmonella status on pig farms across Northern Ireland.
"Three pigs in very batch are tested for the presence of the organism," the Forum's chief executive, Keith Smyton told Farming Life.
"Samples are taken by dissecting out small segments of diaphragm either as the pigs travel along the kill line or in the cold store.
"A total of 15 samples per producer per quarter must be taken in order to officially register a farm under the testing scheme."
He added: "The good news is that 94 per cent of local pig herds are now registered, putting us well above the UK average."
Test results are classified under three categories with Category 1 reflecting the highest degree of freedom from Salmonella infection.
"A significant number of local producers are already achieving Category 1 status," confirmed the Forum spokesman.
"What's more, all the herdowners in Categories 2 and 3 have agreed to allow Department of Agriculture and Rural Development pig specialists to visit their premises so as to identify the source of the Salmonella problems that exist."
Keith Smyton said: " Salmonella is a major public health issue in the UK. Local pig producers are committed to securing the highest production standards on their farms.
The Salmonella testing programme has confirmed that Northern Ireland is leading the way in the fight against Salmonella. And this is more good news for consumers Provincewide."