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In response to the demand from consumers worldwide for safe food, the OIE is working with relevant organisations to reduce food borne risks to human health due to hazards arising from animal production. In this context, a hazard is defined as a biological, chemical or physical agent in food with the potential to cause an adverse health effect in humans, whether or not it causes disease in animals. The 3rd OIE Strategic Plan (2001-2005) recommended that "OIE should be more active in the area of public health and consumer protection," and noted that this should include "zoonoses and diseases transmissible to humans through food, whether or not animals are affected by such diseases", with the object of improving the safety of the "food production to consumption continuum" worldwide.
In 2002, the Director General of the OIE established a permanent Working Group on Animal Production Food Safety (APFSWG) to coordinate the food safety activities of the OIE. The Working Group's membership includes internationally recognized experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), and reflects a broad geographical basis.
Under the 4th OIE Strategic Plan (2006-2010) the OIE’s role and work programme relevant to animal production food safety was firmly established, and the arrangements for cooperation with the CAC in the provision to governments and other interested parties with consistent, coherent and complementary advice on the management of food safety risks from the farm to the fork. The 5th OIE Strategic Plan (2011-2015) confirms the mandate of the APFSWG to continue working with relevant organisations, especially the CAC, FAO and WHO, with the goal of reducing risks to human health due to hazards arising from animal products. The Working Group will continue its programme for the development of standards relevant to the pre-slaughter sector of the food chain, with a primary focus on food safety measures applicable at the farm level. This work covers pathogens and other hazards that do not normally cause disease in animals.
The Director General of the OIE receives advice from the APFSWG and relevant OIE Specialist Commissions on the activities of the OIE in the area of animal production food safety.
The APFSWG recognised that the goals of the OIE can only be achieved by working in collaboration with the WHO, the FAO and their subsidiary bodies, particularly the CAC. This is essential to avoid contradictory standards, to address gaps between current standards and to ensure the most effective use of available expertise. To this end, the OIE has strengthened formal and informal relationships with relevant international organisations and expert groups. The APFSWG identified as a priority an examination of the scope for joint development, by the OIE and Codex, of standards. This would strengthen the current approach to addressing gaps and duplication in standards.
The WHO World Health Assembly in May 2010 approved an amendment to the official OIE/WHO Agreement, providing a legal basis for the joint development of common OIE/Codex standards. The Codex Committee on General Principles will consider the proposed joint development of common OIE/Codex standards at its next meeting in April, 2012.
The membership of OIE Working Groups (including the APFSWG) is based on internationally recognised scientific expertise, with balanced geographic representation an important secondary consideration. Members are proposed by the OIE Director General and presented for endorsement by the World Assembly of Delegates meeting in plenary at the OIE General Session annually in May. Participating experts are expected to contribute objectively to the discussion and not to represent the views of a particular country, sector or organisation.
On the right hand side of this page you can find information on the membership, terms of reference and modus operandi of the APFSWG, selected documents, meeting reports and a link to the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (the Terrestrial Code) on line.
Antimicrobial resistance is a topic on the APFSWG work programme. For all relevant information on this topic go to:
Chapter 6.1. of the Terrestrial Code provides guidance to OIE Members on the role and responsibilities of national Veterinary Services. The education and training of veterinarians, which includes animal health (including zoonoses) and food hygiene, means that they are uniquely equipped to play a central role in ensuring food safety, especially the safety of foods of animal origin. In order for them to make the best possible contribution to food safety, it is important that the education and training of veterinarians meet high standards and that there are national programmes for ongoing professional training.
The Veterinary Services should comply with the fundamental principles of quality as described in the Terrestrial Code: Chapter 3.1. Veterinary Services and Chapter 3.2. Evaluation of Veterinary Services. Chapter 3.2. also highlights the need for cooperation with other authorities in the food production continuum to ensure the protection of both animal and public health.
Considering that the veterinary inspection of animals at slaughter provides a valuable contribution to surveillance for certain diseases of animal and public health importance, in May 2006 the OIE World Assembly of Delegates adopted Chapter 6.2. Control of Hazards of Animal Health and Public Health Importance through Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem Meat Inspection of the Terrestrial Code. This chapter contains a reference to the complementary Codex Alimentarius Commission Code of Hygienic Practice for Meat (CAC/RCP 58-2005).
The OIE and FAO published a Guide to Good Farming Practices for Animal Production Food Safety in English, French and Spanish in 2010. This document serves as a generic guide to help Competent Authorities and stakeholders, particularly farmers, to meet their responsibilities to produce safe food of animal origin. The Guide supports the development of on-farm quality assurance systems for animal production food safety. The Guide complements existing guidance from OIE, FAO and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and addresses issues, including animal health and welfare, social, economic and environmental matters relevant to livestock production.