Meat inspection from the pathologist’s perspective

temporary exhibition
A selection from the material of the Pathology Museum and the „Colour atlas of veterinary pathology”
Meat inspection is one of the most important applications of veterinary pathology. The beginnings of official meat inspection date back to the second half of the 19th century in Hungary. The law regarding public health (no. 14 of 1876) was the first to state:
13. § Animals to be slaughtered on abattoirs for commercial purposes have to be examined from the point of view of their health. Would this inspection conclude that the meat of the animal meant for public consumption is harmful, slaughter for the above purpose must not be allowed. Besides this supervision all meat sold for consumption by the public is also subject to health inspection.
Meat inspection was first carried out by medical doctors who did not have any knowledge of animal diseases. It was only 12 years later that the comprehensive and up-to-date law regarding the veterinary system (no. 7 of 1888) claimed:
14. § In communities where meat consumption is considerable, cattle may be slaughtered only on abattoirs. It is the minister of agriculture, industry and commerce in agreement with the minister of internal affairs who decide, upon the initiative of the administrative committee, in which communities abattoirs should be established. The health status of cattle, sheep, goats, and swine has to be checked by the official veterinarian before and after their slaughter. If there is no official veterinarian, a slaughter inspector should be employed for this job.”
Ferenc Hutÿra gave an extensive report to the National Council of Public Health about the poor status of veterinarians employed in slaughterhouses who were neither respected, nor well-paid, and underlined the threat presented by insufficient meat inspection to public health.
Following the law and – to a great extent due to the efforts of the Hungarian Royal Veterinary Academy – the professionalism of meat inspection increased. In 1905 the journal „Abattoir reviews” (Vágóhídi Szemle), in 1906 the supplement of the Veterinary Journal (Állatorvosi Lapok) entitled „Meat inspection” (Húsvizsgálat) were started. Unfortunately these journals ceased during World War 1.
Between the two world wars the veterinarians of the abattoir had close contact with the veterinary school, and their work was a guarantee of excellent quality. Albert Breuer abandoned professorship for the sake of working at the slaughterhouse. His followers, Géza Semsey at the academy, on the one hand, and Mihály Rónai and Gyula Kazár respectively at the abattoir and others deserve mentioning from this period. Almost all the outstanding professors of the Academy contributed to the improvement of food safety. This is reflected in their works which you may see in the showcases.
There are two proofs of the significance of veterinary pathology as a discipline which lays the foundations of correct diagnosis in clinical work, and of the recognition of infectious diseases or those threatening food safety. One is that most of the personalities occurring in the portraits started their career as pathologists. The other is the fact that the most impressive hall of the new campus, into which the veterinary school moved in 1881, was devoted to the museum of pathology. For over 20 years the room known today as the „Auditorium” hosted the preparations a small selection of which is presented at this exhibition. In the early 1900s the museum was moved to the newly erected top floor of the department of pathology. We would like to unveil a little bit of this unique collection which is not open to the public, but which served teaching and demonstration with indispensable relics. We also hope that after some renovation, the collection will be opened for students who are not satisfied with photos or films about diseases already extinct, and the deformities they cause in organs and tissues involved.
You may also see modern photo illustrations from the „Atlas of veterinary pathology” issued in 2006 which supplement the presentation of pathologic states relevant from the point of view of meat inspection.
As a matter of fact, such a small exhibition cannot cover all aspects of either pathology, or meat inspection. Relying on the two collections, we have only presented some diseases which are important in the context of food hygiene. We formed four groups: bacterial, viral, parasitic diseases, and „miscellanea”. We hope this will be enough to give you an impression what a broad spectrum of knowledge, what a special skill of observation are required of professional meat inspectors, and how complex is the series of decisions they have to make in order to achieve reliable judgements. Of course, we could not miss the opportunity to give an insight into the history of pathology and meat inspection to raise your interest in further studies.
We offer our exhibition to students of veterinary science and the general public who surely enjoy a touch of bloody thrill, and can appreciate the bizarre beauty of the subject.

Professor Ferenc Vetési retired department head Department of Pathology and Forensic Veterinary Medicine

Éva Orbán  curator Collection of Veterinary History