When highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) suddenly hit Jennie-O Turkey Store operations in Minnesota in spring 2015, the poultry processor found itself scrambling to document plant operations and comply with regulations to prove that its poultry products were still safe to transport to customers and trading partners. Speaking at the 2015 National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production, Tom Smith, vice president of quality management at Jennie-O Turkey Store, offered five tips for other poultry processors to follow, based on Jennie-O’s experience, in order to be prepared in advance of an outbreak at their own facilities.

1. Create intervention plans ahead of time for your plants.

Because farm locations are often private, your plant may not be aware of avian influenza outbreaks at other nearby farms that are not directly affecting your operation. However, since you will still be required to comply with biosecurity regulations if located within a control area, Smith advises poultry operations to figure out in advance where their farms sit relative to others by mapping out plants and drawing circles around where a control area would be located should the plant or a nearby farm experience an outbreak. 

2. Know how you are going to wash trucks and trailers.

The truck is considered “dirty” as soon as it comes in to your plant, regardless of where the truck actually travels within the premises. Maintenance staff should have a plan in place for cleaning and disinfecting all trucks. Additionally, truck drivers must ensure they are following proper biosecurity measures like wearing disposable gloves and boots, disinfecting rubber footwear and washing their hands prior to leaving the premises. 

3. Make sure to take into consideration that runoff cannot go into storm drains, so a containment system may be needed.

Chemicals and water used to clean and disinfect the plant, equipment and personnel in the event of avian influenza are not allowed to flow into the regular storm drains, so a system for catching and disposing this runoff is necessary. Initially unprepared for this, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommended Jennie-O work with an environmental group to modify its plant to comply with the special drainage requirements. But to help other companies be prepared before being put in the same situation, Smith advised, "This is one where you need to go back to your maintenance staff and ask, 'What would we do?'"

4. Develop your traffic routes to prevent cross-contamination.

Figure out traffic patterns for trucks entering and leaving the plant ahead of time so that, if an outbreak of avian influenza occurs, you can continue to move poultry. Smith said that at his Jennie-O plant, there was a separate entrance for dirty trucks coming into the plant and a separate exit for clean trucks leaving the plant.

5. Develop your report of where product is shipped so you can submit for permits easily.

In order to move product in and out of control zones, within and outside of the state in which the plant is located, permits are needed. Smith advised companies to work directly with their state to figure out their Farm Premise IDs and get APHIS involved early. He said APHIS does not come in until requested, but it is still your responsibility to ensure that permits are on record in case trading partners ask for verification. "There is no one who is going to hold your hand to make sure you have these things done. We thought there would be, but there was too much going on," Smith said. 

The Delmarva Poultry Industry 2015 National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production was held October 13-14 in Ocean City, Maryland.