Food safety, inseparable from strong and efficient animal health systems
The Director General of the OIE, Bernard Vallat(centre) this morning accompanied the WHO Director General, Margareth Chan (centre),and the representative from FAO, Berhe Tekola, (left), on a visit to the “world’s biggest market”. The Chief Executive Officer of Rungis International Market, Francis Lefèvre (right), was their guide at the meat pavilion.
Paris, 7 April 2015– World Health Day 2015 was launched this morning based on the theme “food safety”. At this occasion, the three standard-setting international organisations on food safety, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) met for a guided tour of the Rungis International Market in France, close to Paris. The French Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, as well as representatives from the private sector, from the Ministry of Health and from the French agency responsible for food safety joined in the event.
With the advent of globalisation, ensuring the safety of food products is a key challenge for all countries in the world. For this purpose, it is essential to act during all the stages of the food chain; from production at the farm up to consumption by man or animal. In the context of the increasing demand for animal protein, controlling the pathogen agents at their source in animals found in farms is the best way of protecting human health. In fact many sanitary risks exist before animal slaughter or during the transformation phase. These risks can be reduced or prevented by policies on prevention emanating from standards and best practices prescribed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Codex Alimentarius.
During the visit “this morning, I saw veterinarians working on the floor, in the meat section, implementing the international standards”, explained Dr Chan during her speech. “And visiting other sections, [I was] equally impressed with the quality control systems put in place.”
In a number of countries, like France, the Veterinary Services take care of food safety along the whole food chain, at farm level, abattoir level, during transportation, distribution level and up to restaurant level. “The existence of well-trained veterinary services, supported by governance structures, legislation and adequate human and financial resources is a pre-requisite to guaranteeing the security of food of animal origin”, highlighted Dr Vallat.
However, if the French market at Rungis was presented this morning as an example of sanitary safety, the total absence of adequate legislation to ensure food safety in more than 100 countries today and the absence of administration allowing the application of such legislation, when it does exist, is regrettable.
“Crises like the Ebola virus epidemic, or alerts related to antibiotic resistance are also alarm bells which, on a daily basis, highlight the major importance of strengthening national health systems, both human and animal”, recalled the Director General of the OIE, who concluded his speech by thanking the WHO for having made this World Health Day “an event which brought together all the food safety players, integrating human, animal, agricultural and environmental dimensions”.
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