8.10.2015 Evira Science Day

Animal health and welfare

Chaired by Researcher, DVM PhD Maria Rönnqvist and Senior Reseacher, DVM PhD Ulla-Maija Kokkonen.

The equine disease project
Senior Researcher, DVM PhD Ulla-Maija Kokkonen, Veterinary Virology Research Unit

The horse disease project analysed the occurrence in Finland of certain major infectious horse diseases, focusing on current disease threats relating to imports. It also sought to obtain data on infectious horse diseases in order to support equine businesses and improve diagnostics, monitoring and guidelines. The project studied 402 imported horses, 50 stud horses and 217 sick horses that were suspected of suffering from an infectious disease. The diseases studied were: equine infectious anemia, West Nile fever, equine viral arteritis, equine herpesvirus 1 and 4, equine influenza, and equine distemper. The presentation will cover the project's implementation and results.

Escherichia coli infection in broiler chicken
Senior Researcher Tarja Pohjanvirta, Veterinary Bacteriology Research Unit

Infections caused by the Escherichia coli bacterium cause significant financial and well-being issues in the global production of broiler chickens. This disease occurs in many forms, the most common being a systemic infection known as colibacteriosis. Colibacteriosis may be caused by many types of coli bacteria. Viruses and mycoplasma infections expose birds to colibacteriosis. These diseases have not been identified in production poultry in Finland. However, in spite of this, more colibacteriosis than normal has been found in broiler production over the last few years, and the situation has been particularly problematic in 2015. In January - February, Evira made a thorough study of the characteristics of the E. coli strains found in the bone marrow of about 400 birds from almost 50 farms. The study showed that Finland currently has two main types of colibacteriosis cases: one is the globally common serotype O78 and the other is serotype O53, which was found on almost as many farms.  Similar strains were identified in both mother hens and production generation birds, indicating that the infection was transferred from one generation to the next in the egg.

MRSA infections in people and pigs on pig farms
Senior Researcher, M.Sc. (Tech.) Suvi Nykäsenoja, Food and Feed Microbiology Research Unit

"Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in domesticated animals and its significance in cross-species infection between humans and animals" is a research project that analysed MRSA carrier states in humans living and working on pig farms. The project studied eleven pig farms in southern Finland where MRSA bacteria were identified in swine. 24 people from six different farms participated in the human screening and questionnaire. People working on two different farms were diagnosed with MRSA bacteria of the same type as those identified in the swine. These MRSA bacteria belonged to the CC398 group, which are commonly found in livestock and swine in particular. As people living, working and visiting pig farms may be exposed to MRSA infection, due attention should be paid to proper cleaning, hand hygiene and the use of protective gear whilst on farms. The potential for cross-species infection between humans and animals should also be borne in mind during daily activities.

The effects of neonicotinoids on honeybees
Senior Researcher, PhD Kati Hakala, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit

Neomehi, a two-year project run by Evira and Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), has studied the impact of neonicotinoid use on bees in Finnish oil plant protection. During the project's field trials, bee colonies were established in the close vicinity of turnip rape fields in four different locations in Southwest Finland. The turnip rape in the test fields was cultivated either organically or with controlled use of pesticides containing neonicotinoids. The success of the bee hives was monitored, and the bees and the products of their hives were analysed for neonicotinoid residues. Additional residue analyses were also conducted in a survey of samples collected from hives all across Finland.

Transmission model of salmonella in feed
Senior Researcher, PhD, docent Jukka Ranta, Risk Assessment Research Unit

The broad variety of data that is gathered about fodder, its ingredients and its various mixtures can be used to improve salmonella risk assessments. The estimation model is a simplified diagram of "material flows" and their relation to sampling results.  It provides estimates of salmonella occurrence at different stages of the chain, and a risk estimate can be formed by combining them with concentration estimates and the dose-response model. The amount of data available for each factor will affect the estimate's uncertainty distribution.

Food safety

Chaired by Senior Researcher, DVM PhD Helena Pastell and Researcher, Lc.Sc (Agr. & For.) Arja Pohto.

Sheep as reservoir for Yersinia enterocolitica
Laboratory Engineer Kirsi-Maria Eklund, Food and Feed Microbiology Research Unit

Yersinia enterocolitica is a zoonotic bacterium that spreads via food and causes enteritis. Although hundreds of Y. enterocolitica enteritis cases are reported in Finland every year, its sources of infection and the reservoirs for its pathogenic strains are still poorly understood. A 2013 project run by the University of Helsinki's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine studied fecal samples from 545 sheep, 39 (7 %) of which yielded Y. enterocolitica. Y. enterocolitica is a highly heterogeneous species that includes both high-pathogenic and non-disease-causing strains.  Three different biotypes of Y. enterocolitica were identified in the material: biotype 1A (which is considered harmless), biotype 2:O9 (a common cause of enteritis), and biotype 5:O3 (a rare type, largely held to be an animal pathogen). Neither of the pathogenic biotypes has previously been reported in Finnish sheep.

Fineli Finnish Food Composition Database and Evira
Senior Researcher, D.Sc. (Food Sciences) Helena Pastell, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit

Fineli – the Finnish Food Composition Database – is maintained by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The database contains over 5,000 foodstuffs and almost 300 nutrient factors. The information contained in Fineli is used in healthcare, food services, software design, education, research and risk assessment, and by the food and drink industry, trade, decision-makers and citizens. Evira is involved in updating outdated analyses and supplying missing data. Evira is also a member of the Fineli working group coordinated by THL. Its other members are: the Ministry of Forestry and Agriculture, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Natural Resources Institute Finland, University of Helsinki, Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation, and Finnish Grocery Trade Association

Status report on Talvivaara
Senior Researcher, PhD Eija-Riitta Venäläinen, Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit

After the gypsum pond leak at the Talvivaara Mine in November 2012, fish living in waters in the vicinity of the mine area were monitored for heavy metal concentrations. A total of three sampling rounds were conducted in 2012 - 2013. The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) was responsible for taking the samples, which were analysed by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira.

Luke and Evira then continued their cooperation, implementing sample round IV in the late autumn of 2014 and sample round V in the summer of 2015. More information on emissions over a longer time period is required, as the process by which metals accumulated in sediment are transferred to fish is not well understood, and accumulation may occur slowly over a long period of time.

The common species of the area, such as perch, pike, roach, burbot, zander and whitefish were studied. Muscle biopsies were tested for aluminium, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, chrome, copper, lead, manganese, nickel, iron, selenium, zinc and uranium.

In the Vuoksi River basin, fishing centred on Lakes Kivijärvi and Laakajärvi. Lake Ukonjärvi was used as a control for the Vuoksi River basin.

Samples from the Oulujoki River basin were collected from Lakes Kalliojärvi, Kolmisoppi and Jormasjärvi. Lakes Teerijärvi, Kiantajärvi and Kivesjärvi were used as controls for the Oulujoki River basin.

During the second and third rounds, the cadmium concentration of some individual fish samples exceeded the maximum limits laid down in the Food Act. However, no exceedances were observed during the fourth round. During the fourth round, lead concentrations were also largely below the method detection limit, and no differences were observed between the lakes or between waters in the mine's zone of influence and the controls. Almost all uranium and aluminium concentrations were also below the method detection limit (U: 0.005 mg/kg and Al: 0.25 mg/kg), as they had been during previous rounds.

Manganese concentrations had fallen in comparison to previous rounds. During the first three rounds, the average manganese concentration in fish within the mine's zone of influence was 2.6 mg/kg compared to 0.62 mg/kg in the fourth round. Comparison figures for fish in the control lakes had also fallen from 1.2 mg/kg to 0.69 mg/kg. The average concentration of zinc has likewise fallen from 7.6 mg/kg to 4.0 mg/kg. Chrome and copper concentrations had risen slightly between rounds III and IV. No clear trend was detected in the changes in nickel and iron concentrations.

The mercury concentration measured in fish was typical of a lake containing organic matter, and the waters in the mine's zone of influence are of this type. The mercury concentrations in predatory fish in internal waters (pike, zander, burbot and large perch) may be high. According to Evira's general recommendations on eating fish, pike caught in lakes and the sea should only be eaten once or twice a month due to mercury accumulation. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should not eat pike at all. It is recommended that people who eat a lot of fish caught in internal waters should also reduce their consumption of other predatory fish that accumulate mercury. These fish are pike, zander, burbot and large perch.

The maximum  levelsset for fish  meat are as follows: cadmium 0.050 mg/kg, lead 0.30 mg/kg and mercury 1.0 mg/kg (for pike) and 0.50 mg/kg (for the other fish studied). This data is taken from Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 and its amendments.

Analysis of the fifth sampling round is still ongoing.

Research of control
Senior Inspector, Specialist in Veterinary Medicine, Hygiene of Food Production Tiina Läikkö-Roto, Food Hygiene Unit

Soy-based nutritional supplements
Senior Researcher, PhD Tero Hirvonen, Risk Assessment Research Unit

The PlantLibra project's questionnaire on plant supplement usage was taken as the source material for this risk profile. A literature search identified the plant estrogens contained in soya bean concentrate as a potential risk factor in soy supplements. Soya bean concentrate has been seen to cause hormonal disturbances in laboratory animals, especially during the early phases of development. The no-observed-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) is 200 mg/kg RP per day. Combination effects between soya bean concentrate and medication are also possible. Soya supplements are mainly used to treat menopausal symptoms. The exposure to soya bean concentrate was 0.25 - 4 mg/kg RP per day. This represents a sufficient safety margin. However, soya supplements may be harmful to breast cancer patients