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Animal Production Food Safety

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. The 4th OIE Strategic Plan (2006-2010) supports the continuation of this mandate, recommending that the APFSWG "continue to work with other relevant organisations, especially the Codex Alimentarius Commission, in reducing food borne risks to human health due to hazards arising from 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 has drawn up a detailed work programme for the development of standards relevant to animal production food safety, covering hazards that arise on-farm and at slaughter, with a primary focus on measures applicable at the animal production level. 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 priorities an examination of the scope to develop joint OIE and Codex standards, to address gaps and duplication in standards, and to develop procedures for mutual recognition of standards where appropriate.

The membership of OIE expert ad hoc groups and Working Groups (including the APFSWG) is based on excellency and scientific expertise, with balanced geographic representation an important secondary consideration. Members are proposed by the OIE Director General and presented for endorsement by the OIE International Committee. 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 side of this page there is information on the membership of the APFSWG, its modus operandi, selected documents, meeting reports and a link to the online version of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (the Terrestrial Code ).

Key themes in the APFSWG work programme

Antimicrobial Resistance

In response to Members' requests and the impact on animal and human health, antimicrobial resistance has been a priority on the OIE's standard-setting programme for several years. In 2003 the OIE International Committee adopted three appendices to the Terrestrial Code and a chapter in the OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals. In 2004 the OIE convened an ad hoc Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. Updates to Terrestrial Code texts recommended by the ad hoc Group were endorsed by the APFSWG and by the OIE International Committee in 2005. The ad hoc Group also established a list of Critically Important Antimicrobials for Veterinary Use, which was endorsed by the International Committee in 2007 under Resolution XXVIII. This list may be viewed on the OIE internet site at:

Cooperation between the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE on Food Safety throughout the Food Chain (see the right hand side of this page)

This document presents the global regulatory perspective (standards) on the food production to consumption continuum and provides useful basis for OIE recommendations on “The Role of Veterinary Services in Food Safety”, which were adopted by OIE Members in May 2008.

The Role of Veterinary Services in Food Safety

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 both animal health (including zoonoses) and food hygiene components, 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. The document also highlights the need for cooperation with other authorities in the food chain continuum to ensure the protection of both animal and public health.

Control of Hazards of Animal Health and Public Health Importance through Ante-Mortem and Post-Mortem Meat Inspection (see right hand side of this page)

Acknowledging that veterinary inspection of animals at slaughter can provide a very valuable contribution to surveillance for certain diseases of animal and public health importance, Chapter 6.2. of the Terrestrial Code was adopted by the Members of the OIE in May 2006. This demonstrates the APFSWG approach to ensuring complementarities in OIE and CAC standards.

Guide to Good Farming Practices for Animal Production Food Safety

The OIE and FAO will publish a Guide to Good Farming Practices for Animal Production Food Safety in English, French and Spanish at the end of 2008. This document will serve 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 CAC, which address issues, including animal health and welfare, social, economic and environmental matters relevant to livestock production.

Future work priorities

In May 2008, the OIE International Committee adopted Resolution No. XXV, recommending that the APFSWG's 2008/2009 work programme guide the OIE's animal production food safety activities. This work programme includes the following specific topics:

  • Development of additional text on the management of antimicrobial resistance
  • Alternative approaches to risk management of zoonotic diseases
  • Development of a new chapter on animal feeding for the Terrestrial Code
  • Development of a new Terrestrial Code chapter addressing the safety of biotechnology derived vaccines in animal products
  • Updating the Terrestrial Code Chapter on Brucellosis
  • Development of new Terrestrial Code Chapter(s) on Salmonella.

The OIE continues to emphasize the need to strengthen the relationship with the CAC. In the capacity of an observer organisation, the OIE contributes to the work of several Codex Committees, including the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (which addresses inter alia the issues of traceability and certification), the Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products and the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Food. Due to the relevance of the topics discussed in regard to the food chain, the OIE is also actively involved in the ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance and in the ad hoc Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Food derived from Biotechnology. To avoid gaps and duplications between the standards of the OIE and Codex, the Working Group is will continue to cross-reference OIE and Codex texts whenever developing standards in the area of animal production food safety.