Published:  04:09 AM, 13 January 2020

Role of veterinarians for animal food safety and animal welfare

Role of veterinarians for animal food safety and animal welfare

Introduction Now-a-days, veterinarians (vets) in the world are closely involved with food of animal origin. Sound Animal health is the prerequisite for safe animal protein. Hygienic milk, meat and egg as well as animal product and byproduct processing is the focal point for safe animal protein consumption.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) stated "Most reported outbreaks of foodborne disease are due to contamination of foods with zoonotic agents, often during primary production." Veterinary services play a key role in the investigation of such outbreaks, all the way back to the farm and in formulating and implementing remedial measures once the source of the outbreak has been identified.

This work should be carried out in close collaboration with human and environmental health professionals, analysts, epidemiologists, food producers, processors and traders and others involved. The World Veterinary Association mentioned "Veterinarians are present at every link in the chain and have the knowledge and expertise to audit the standards of animal health, animal welfare and public health from 'stable to table'".

Safe food can only be produced if healthy, clean, residue and stress free animals are delivered to the slaughterhouse where a dedicated inspectorate, headed by a veterinarian, can ensure that high standards of animal welfare and food safety are maintained. This assurance should apply to all products of animal origin throughout the processing and marketing stages. It is often said that good animal welfare equates to good food safety.

Medicine Use Vets who visit the farms will be guiding the farmer in his use of medicines for any animals that get sick. They will want to make sure that he uses the right medicine for the right species and the correct dose.

For example, farmers are advised to use foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine, which contains and matches the specific strains of virus that are present in the territory at the time. One of the most important reasons for this is to ensure that any animal, which is sent to slaughter, has drug residues below the permitted limit before it is slaughtered. This period is known as the "withdrawal period".

Vets will also want to assist and advise the farmer in the use of antibiotics because of the risk this has in developing resistance. Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics represent a risk to future generations of animals, which may get sick. If the bacteria are very resistant to antibiotics, there may be no medicines available to the farmer for him to treat a sick animal.

It is also possible, in certain circumstances that these resistant bacteria could reach a slaughterhouse or a market, causing meat or milk to become contaminated, which in turn may cause antibiotic resistance to be transferred to the consumers of such products. In view of the above, the uses of antibiotics in feed on farm animals in Bangladesh is prohibited. Animal FeedVets will also have interest in the food the animals consume.

This is because, if the animal feed is incorrect or toxic, it will affect the health of the animals, and in some cases, the toxin in the animal feed can be absorbed by the animal and then passed on to the consumer in the milk, meat or eggs produced. Dioxins, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichoroethane (DDT), radionuclides (radioactivity) and salmonella are well known examples of contamination in animal feed.

Animal and Zoonotic Disease Vets are trained to recognize disease. Diseases of great interest to them are zoonoses, which are diseases that can affect both animals and man. If a vet suspects zoonoses, such as tuberculosis (TB), is on a farm, he will want to take certain steps.

The first two steps will be to confirm the diagnosis and control the disease outbreak. The third will be to make sure that the disease does not enter the food chain, in this case, through the milk or through the meat.

Food Safety at the Market LevelFood animal markets, world wide, are well known for spreading disease from farm back to farm or further down the "farm to fork" food chain. Therefore this is an area where additional measures are sometimes required such as "rest days" during which markets are kept empty while they are thoroughly cleansed.

In Singapore, the USA and Europe specific 'public health' vets routinely inspect live food animal markets for signs of ill health, contamination and poor welfare.Food Safety at the Slaughter house LevelAs defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica; "ante-mortem inspection identifies animals not fit for human consumption.

Here animals that are down, disabled, diseased, or dead are removed from the food chain and labeled "condemned." Post-mortem inspection of the head, viscera, and carcasses helps to identify whole carcasses, individual parts, or organs that are not wholesome or safe for human consumption."

In most developed countries ante- and postmortem meat inspection at the slaughterhouse is carried out by vets. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) "Control and/or reduction of biological hazards of animal and public health importance by ante- and post-mortem meat inspection are a core responsibility of Veterinary Services."

Drug and Chemical Residue ChecksTraditional meat inspection procedures have now had modern additional checks added in order to safeguard the public. These checks are to look for substances such as growth promoters, hormones, antibiotics or chemicals used legally or illegally in the production of the meat;

with the aim of significantly reducing the risk of the public consuming meat with harmful chemicals. In the last few years, there have been many different problems with residues in food. Melamine in milk, growth hormone in feed lot cattle are examples.

Food Safety in Food Processing Veterinary involvement in food processing is seen mainly in the inspection of food factories, particularly in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, which export large quantities of meat, milk, cheese and yoghurt abroad.

Food Safety in the Storage and Transport of Food Traditionally, food inspectors are involved in the inspection of the retail side of the food process. However, vets do have a great interest in how food of animal origin is stored prior to going to retailers.

Certain countries do use veterinary supervised inspections of the storage and transport of food. In Singapore, for example, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has established certain requirements for the handling and processing of meat and fish, through their Wholesome Meat and Fish Act and Sale of Food Acts.

Food Safety through "Traceback" "Traceback" processes and systems were originally developed in the USA and Europe, particularly Scandinavian countries such Denmark in the 1970's. The aim of the traceback exercise is to find out where in the chain the problem has occurred.

Did the problem occur at the point of sale in for example a restaurant? If not then did the problem occur at a food storage point? If so, which one and what other foods were stored at the time and at that place? This is highly relevant for example with ground beef and E. Coli O157 food poisoning.

Overall Strategy and Advice in Matters Concerning Food Safety Nowadays most governments in the world have vets advising them on strategic matters concerning food of animal origin as well as other veterinary matters.

Nowadays the veterinary strategists will use many intellectual tools. Risk assessments, risk analysis, risk communication, risk management, assessment of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), their own field experience, incident data resources, research data resources and food safety simulations are few examples of these tools.

In view of the recent incident at Fukushima in Japan, radiation monitoring of food and animal food has become an important and relevant matter regionally. The Health Certification of Food Animals and Food of Animal Origin The verb 'to vet' used in the English language is a very distinctive word.

It means to check something thoroughly and in detail. Traditionally once a vet has "vetted" an animal or animal product, he can issue a certificate describing what he has found. This certificate is regarded, within the veterinary profession, as an extremely important document, which as far as it is humanly possible reflects the whole truth.

Veterinary certificates, since they have to be completed to the highest possible standards, are very useful in facilitating international trade. It is on these ethical principles that the OIE uses veterinary health certificates to ensure that food that is safe to eat can cross borders.

Conclusion Now with globalization, more processed food, more and more food imports and exports worldwide, greater movement of animal and humans, it appears that it is the turn of the veterinary profession to be one of the most crucial to society.

Their work with food of animal origin is an indicator of the influence they now have and will probably have in the future. The writer is Chief Scientific Officer, Livestock Division, Bangladesh Agricultural ResearchCouncil, Farmgate, Dhaka

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