Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Defining syndromes using cattle meat inspection data for syndromic surveillance purposes: a statistical approach with the 2005–2010 data from ten French slaughterhouses

Céline Dupuy12*, Eric Morignat1, Xavier Maugey3, Jean-Luc Vinard1, Pascal Hendrikx4, Christian Ducrot2, Didier Calavas1 and Emilie Gay1

Author Affiliations

1 Unité Epidémiologie, Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses), 31 avenue Tony Garnier, Lyon, Cedex 07, F69364, France

2 Unité d’épidémiologie animale, UR346, INRA, St Genès Champanelle, 63122, France

3 Direction générale de l’alimentation, 251, rue de Vaugirard, Paris, Cedex 15, 75732, France

4 Direction scientifique des laboratoires, Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation de l’environnement et du travail (Anses), 37-31 avenue du général, Maisons-Alfort, Cedex, Leclerc F-94701, France

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:88  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-88

Published: 30 April 2013



The slaughterhouse is a central processing point for food animals and thus a source of both demographic data (age, breed, sex) and health-related data (reason for condemnation and condemned portions) that are not available through other sources. Using these data for syndromic surveillance is therefore tempting. However many possible reasons for condemnation and condemned portions exist, making the definition of relevant syndromes challenging.

The objective of this study was to determine a typology of cattle with at least one portion of the carcass condemned in order to define syndromes. Multiple factor analysis (MFA) in combination with clustering methods was performed using both health-related data and demographic data.


Analyses were performed on 381,186 cattle with at least one portion of the carcass condemned among the 1,937,917 cattle slaughtered in ten French abattoirs. Results of the MFA and clustering methods led to 12 clusters considered as stable according to year of slaughter and slaughterhouse. One cluster was specific to a disease of public health importance (cysticercosis). Two clusters were linked to the slaughtering process (fecal contamination of heart or lungs and deterioration lesions). Two clusters respectively characterized by chronic liver lesions and chronic peritonitis could be linked to diseases of economic importance to farmers. Three clusters could be linked respectively to reticulo-pericarditis, fatty liver syndrome and farmer’s lung syndrome, which are related to both diseases of economic importance to farmers and herd management issues. Three clusters respectively characterized by arthritis, myopathy and Dark Firm Dry (DFD) meat could notably be linked to animal welfare issues. Finally, one cluster, characterized by bronchopneumonia, could be linked to both animal health and herd management issues.


The statistical approach of combining multiple factor analysis with cluster analysis showed its relevance for the detection of syndromes using available large and complex slaughterhouse data. The advantages of this statistical approach are to i) define groups of reasons for condemnation based on meat inspection data, ii) help grouping reasons for condemnation among a list of various possible reasons for condemnation for which a consensus among experts could be difficult to reach, iii) assign each animal to a single syndrome which allows the detection of changes in trends of syndromes to detect unusual patterns in known diseases and emergence of new diseases.

Syndromic surveillance; Animal health; Meat inspection; Slaughterhouses; Cattle