Monitoring for the National Microbiological Database

Microbiological data is collected in the National Microbiological Database (NMD) and analysed to ensure meat and poultry for sale in NZ or for export is free of organisms which might make it unsafe.

Purpose and aims

Data from primary processing of meat, poultry, game, and ratites is collected for the microbiological monitoring programme. The data is stored for analysis in the NMD. The monitoring programme measures the presence of organisms which pose a food safety risk. The aim is to minimise the incidence of these organisms and make all meat and poultry produced in New Zealand safe to eat.

The data is used to:

  • set national performance targets for the incidence of micro-organisms which cause foodborne illness, such as salmonella and campylobacter
  • enhance the control of processes at premises in order to minimise the incidence of pathogens
  • provide scientific data to support the design of risk-based plans using the Hazard Analysis Control Point System (HACCP)
  • ensure that meat and poultry intended for export meets requirements set by destination countries.

History and background

The NMD was established in 1997 under the Animal Products Act 1999 and Animal Products Regulations 2000. It began with beef, sheep, and lamb and has expanded to include bobby calves, goats, deer, pork, ostrich, emu, and poultry.

Who participates

The programme is mandatory for all primary processors of meat, poultry, pork or ratites. Find out more detailed information about how processors take part in the programme:

Data collection and analysis

The testing regimes differ depending on the type of meat being tested.

Weekly sampling and testing is carried out on beef, sheep, lamb, bobby calves, goats, deer, pork, ostrich, and emu according to sampling requirements for each species. For example, only testing of fresh carcasses is required for pork. For beef, bobby calves, and goats, all product types are tested – this includes fresh carcasses, chilled carcasses, primal cuts, and cartons of bulk meat. Premises processing more than 1 million poultry broilers a year are tested daily, and those processing lower numbers are tested weekly. 

The samples are analysed using defined methods in laboratories approved for the programme. A standardised approach to sampling and testing ensures that the data collected from all processors can be meaningfully compared. The laboratory-authorised results are entered into the web-based NMD, which is maintained by MPI.

How data is reported

Data is reported to MPI in one of the following ways:

  • by the laboratory on behalf of the premises
  • by the NMD controller at the premises once they have received the results from the laboratory.

Premises are required to review their data every week to ensure they are meeting microbiological standards required for hygienic processing. Where limits are exceeded, this is automatically highlighted in the database.

Each quarter:

  • premises receive a ranked list that shows their performance against the national benchmark
  • a statistical summary of all data, which doesn't identify any of the participants, is published on the MPI website – this is known as a national profile.

Through this reporting, premises can measure their own performance against national results. This encourages everyone to achieve the best possible food safety outcomes.

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