The National Pork Producers Council is launching a comprehensive educational awareness campaign to advise producers on ways to avoid broken needles.

One Is Too Many" is a food safety awareness campaign designed to reinforce with pork producers that even one broken needle in any pork product is too many.

Broken needles do end up in hog carcasses and a few find their way into retail pork products, says Paul Sundberg, DVM, assistant vice-president of veterinary issues for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). How often is unknown.

Campaign Launch This month NPPC is launching an informational effort to combat the problem. Materials will be in brochures, check stuffers, laminated barn posters, pens and small calendars.

It will largely be the job of veterinarians and packers to get the message out to producers, Sundberg says. The materials also will be available at annual state pork producer meetings. Producers also can order a video on proper needle injection techniques from NPPC. For details, contact Sundberg at (515) 223-2600 or e-mail sundberp@nppc.org.

Producers need to take responsibility. Bent needles should never be straightened and reused. Replace them with a new needle, Sundberg urges.

Packers need to reinforce the importance of this issue with producers, and do a good job of detection.

Veterinarians need to advise their clients to follow standard operating procedures.

Needle Research Meanwhile, work on needles continues at Iowa State University. Research into needle strength has just been completed by agricultural engineer Steve Hoff. Now he is expanding his research using funding from the National Pork Board.

Hoff will test needle detectability by metal detectors, like those used in packing plants. He also will test how long needles retain sharpness.

Results are expected to be released sometime this spring, says Sundberg.

For their part, needle manufacturers need to provide stronger and more detectable needles for use in livestock, Sundberg states.

"Up to now, the primary needles which have been used in agriculture are human-use needles," says Sundberg. "We have worked hard with needle manufacturers to make them understand that we need needles that have characteristics that meet the demands of animal use." Two companies are working on stronger needles that are 100% detectable.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has issued considerations for needle breakage standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Producers should talk to their packer about a needle breakage policy, asserts NPPC's Paul Sundberg. Find out their payment policies for at-risk animals, identification schemes and notification procedures. Producers should work at prevention and write needle-use guidelines specific for their operations. Consider the following when writing on-farm SOPs.

Prevention should include:

- Ensuring proper animal restraint;

- Identifying proper site for injections;

- Selecting the proper needle length and gauge for the pig's age, injection site and medication characteristics;

- Changing needles as needed between barns, pens and pigs and to maintain cleanliness and sharpness;

- Retrieving dropped needles;

- Changing bent needles, and

- Monitoring needle use and considering the number of needles required to do the job.

Identification of at-risk animals is the second step. Stop injections and attempt to remove the needle, temporarily identify the pig, then permanently identify the pig based on packer guidelines.

Step three is notification. Follow packer recommendations about notification before or upon delivery of at-risk animals.

Step four, train farm employees who give injections on farm policy and procedures.