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Washington, 25 April 2003. - The 13th Inter-American Meeting, at Ministerial Level, on Health and Agriculture (RIMSA 13) was held at the PAHO Headquarters in Washington, D.C. from 24 to 25 April 2003.

RIMSA is the highest policy forum for promoting and strenghtening cooperation between the health and agriculture sectors of the Americas. The objectives of this high level meeting are to adress intersectoral issues.

The Ministers of Agriculture and the Ministers of Health of the 35 Member Countries of the Americas were all present or represented, and more than 200 participants attended the meeting.

The meeting was divided into three panels, i.e. Food Safety; International Cooperation on Food Safety and Security; Agriculture, Health and Rural Development.

While speaking under Panel 2: the Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr. Bernard Vallat, underlined the necessity to modernise Veterinary Services in order to better contribute to improve food safety and security. "The entire world recognizes that food safety must rely on political decisions and on risk-based sanitary measures from animal production at the farm level to the distribution of the final product to the consumer" he said. "It is the role of modern Veterinary Services to adopt this new attitude and we must support their governments and the international organisations in this role".

The Director General of PAHO, Dr. Mirta Roses and the Director General of the OIE, Dr. Bernard Vallat, announced the renewed Agreement between their organizations for a common action to strenghten both animal and public health on the American continent, particularly by supporting the complementarity between the missions of the Veterinary Services and of the Medical Services. This would complement existing collaboration with FAO and WHO.

Furthermore, Dr. Vallat and Dr. Roses underlined the role of modern Veterinary Services in public health by officially celebrating during RIMSA 13 meeting World Veterinary Day, an event demonstrating the contribution of the veterinary profession to society.