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Open Access Research article

Factors associated with whole carcass condemnation rates in provincially-inspected abattoirs in Ontario 2001-2007: implications for food animal syndromic surveillance

Gillian D Alton1*, David L Pearl1, Ken G Bateman1, W Bruce McNab2 and Olaf Berke1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

2 Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 4Y2, Canada

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BMC Veterinary Research 2010, 6:42  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-6-42

Published: 12 August 2010



Ontario provincial abattoirs have the potential to be important sources of syndromic surveillance data for emerging diseases of concern to animal health, public health and food safety. The objectives of this study were to: (1) describe provincially inspected abattoirs processing cattle in Ontario in terms of the number of abattoirs, the number of weeks abattoirs process cattle, geographical distribution, types of whole carcass condemnations reported, and the distance animals are shipped for slaughter; and (2) identify various seasonal, secular, disease and non-disease factors that might bias the results of quantitative methods, such as cluster detection methods, used for food animal syndromic surveillance.


Data were collected from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ontario Cattlemen's Association regarding whole carcass condemnation rates for cattle animal classes, abattoir compliance ratings, and the monthly sales-yard price for various cattle classes from 2001-2007. To analyze the association between condemnation rates and potential explanatory variables including abattoir characteristics, season, year and commodity price, as well as animal class, negative binomial regression models were fit using generalized estimating equations (GEE) to account for autocorrelation among observations from the same abattoir. Results of the fitted model found animal class, year, season, price, and audit rating are associated with condemnation rates in Ontario abattoirs. In addition, a subset of data was used to estimate the average distance cattle are shipped to Ontario provincial abattoirs. The median distance from the farm to the abattoir was approximately 82 km, and 75% of cattle were shipped less than 100 km.


The results suggest that secular and seasonal trends, as well as some non-disease factors will need to be corrected for when applying quantitative methods for syndromic surveillance involving these data. This study also demonstrated that animals shipped to Ontario provincial abattoirs come from relatively local farms, which is important when considering the use of spatial surveillance methods for these data.