World Organisation for Animal Health

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Home > Role of Veterinary Services

Food Safety

 

 

The role of Veterinary Services

Veterinary Authorities or other Competent Authorities are responsible for developing policies, legislation and regulations relevant to food safety thereby contributing to ensuring the safety of food of animal origin. Depending on the national structure of food safety systems, the responsibilities of the Veterinary Authority may be limited to the first part of the food chain dealing with live animals, while in other cases the Veterinary Authority may be responsible for the whole food chain. Veterinarians are trained in both animal health and veterinary public health (including foodborne zoonoses and meat hygiene). These competencies allow them to play a central role in ensuring food safety, especially concerning food of animal origin. According to the local context, food safety activities may also involve veterinary paraprofessionals working under the supervision of veterinarians.

Generally, Veterinary Services contribute to the following steps of the food chain to help to reduce risks to animal health and public health. They may conduct inspections on-farm and in slaughterhouses, where they carry out ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections, to verify the health of the animals and the wholesomeness of the animal products, in accordance with OIE standards:

On farm

Through their presence on farms and collaboration with farmers, veterinarians play a key role in ensuring that animals are healthy and kept under good sanitary and hygienic conditions.

Prevention and control of animal diseases
Veterinary Services play an important role in surveillance, early detection and treatment of diseases in animals - in order to minimise foodborne pathogens from entering the food chain.

Veterinary Services also play a central role in ensuring the responsible and prudent use of veterinary medicinal products, including antimicrobial agents. This helps to minimise the likelihood of non-compliance regarding veterinary drug residues in food of animal origin and the development of antimicrobial resistance.

Traceability
The traceability of animals and animal products throughout the food production chain is crucial in the management of disease outbreaks and food safety incidents. Animal identification and traceability should be under the responsibility of the Veterinary Authority.

Slaughter, processing and distribution

 

In slaughterhouses

Veterinary Services play an important role in oversight of slaughterhouse activities to minimise foodborne risks to public health. Specially trained veterinarians oversee ante- and post-mortem meat inspections with the objective of controlling or reducing biological hazards of animal and public health importance; that is, they supervise the examination of both live animals and their carcasses to manage associated risks.

 

Processing and distribution

Veterinary Services may also be involved in oversight of control measures during processing and distribution of food of animal origin. They may also contribute in increasing the awareness of food producers, processors, and distributors in addressing animal production food safety. 

 

 

 

Crossing borders: The Veterinary Services’ key role in securing international trade

Veterinary Services play an important role in ensuring safe international trade of live animals and animal products based on OIE international Standards. Veterinary Authorities certify that food of animal origin complies with animal health and food safety requirements. The OIE Terrestrial Code provides models of veterinary certificates for international trade in live animals, hatching eggs and products of animal origin.

Other Competent Authorities may also be involved in providing assurances and certification of food of animal origin (for example, pasteurisation of milk products) for international trade.

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