Over the past decade, eastern Europe has experienced a resurgence of trichinellosis. A recent outbreak in Serbia, Yugoslavia, from December 2001 to January 2002, involving 309 people, revealed many of the causes for this reemergence. Epidemiological investigations indicate that the immediate cause of the recent outbreak was the consumption of smoked sausages produced by a small slaughterhouse or meat processor. However, failure of in-house meat inspection procedures and quality assurance as well as oversight by official veterinary control were also responsible. Further analysis of this breakdown in the food safety net revealed additional general factors that have yielded a seriously deficient veterinary control system, and these are factors that are relevant to the problems experienced throughout eastern Europe and other regions. The recent civil war that led to the breakup of the former Federation of Yugoslavia resulted in severe economic and demographic changes, including high inflation and external economic sanctions. This led to (1) the loss of large numbers of experienced veterinary control officers and their replacement with inexperienced personnel, (2) a change in the swine industry with reduction in the number of large establishments with in-house inspection and replacement with more than 1,000 small abattoirs, too small to afford full-time in-house inspection, and (3) an increase in smallholder pig farming with reduced government oversight to ensure high standards in pig-rearing practices (infection risk management). The consequences of these events have been a 300% increase in Serbian pig infection and a concomittant large increase in human outbreaks. Before 1990, swine trichinellosis in Serbia was confined to 4 small districts, but today about one third of the Republic is considered endemic for trichinellosis. The reemergence of trichinellosis in Serbia illustrates the ability of this zoonosis to “leak” through a poorly maintained food safety barrier and the vulnerability of effective veterinary control to national and international events.

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