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70th General Session of the International Committee of the Office International des Epizooties

The 70th annual General Session of the International Committee of the Office International des Epizooties, the World Health Organization for Animal Health, was held in Paris from 26 May to 31 May 2002.

Some 500 participants representing more than 140 countries or territories, 11 intergovernmental organisations and numerous non governmental bodies were present at this event. The Prime Minister of Lithuania, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, several Ministers (France, Panama, Ukraine) and the Director General of the PAHO honoured the Session with their presence.

The main topics dealt with during the Session were as follows:

  • Reporting changes in the distribution of animal diseases and zoonoses world-wide;
  • Within the framework of its standard-setting work, the Committee approved modifications to the International Animal Health Code chapters on foot and mouth disease, notably to introduce the possibility of using new tests, aimed at improving control of this disease which can have such devastating economic effects. On the subject of BSE, the various criteria for determining the animal health categories of Member Countries were clarified. The
    Committee also adopted a resolution relating to the procedures for Member Countries wishing to apply for recognition of theirBSE free status;
  • Special attention was given to two new areas of activity for the OIE, namely “animal welfare” and “food safety”. The OIE is being asked to take the lead on animal welfare firstly by giving priority to the development of measures relating to the transport and slaughter of animals. In the field of food safety, it was decided to focus the OIE's standard activities on eliminating the dangers existing prior to slaughter that could be a source of risk for the consumption of animal products. Recommendations relating to the priorities and functions of the OIE in these areas were adopted by the Committee and will be integrated into the OIE work programme for the period 2002-2005;
  • The General Session welcomed the accession of five new Member Countries. As of May 2002,the OIE comprises 162 Member Countries;
  • In the field of OIE collaboration with other international bodies, formal agreements were signed with the International Federation for Animal Health (IFAH) and the World Veterinary Association (WVA), with the aim of improving animal disease control through the development of greater synergy;
  • Three technical items of major importance were also debated during the Session and resulted to Resolutions being passed by the International Committee:

The role of veterinarians in the prevention and management of food-borne diseases, in particular at the level of livestock producers

The Resolution confirms the essential role of the veterinary profession in guaranteeing food safety from the producer to the consumer, notably through the provisions of the International Animal Health Code on the quality and organisation of the Veterinary Services aimed at ensuring their competence and impartiality in the relevant authorities, the field of research and the private sector;

It also confirms the relevance of the “farm to table” approach to sanitary controls and the need to develop even greater synergy between the standard-setting work of the OIE and that of the Codex Alimentarius relating to controls at the farm level. Lastly, it advocates greater support for developing countries in this field.

Risk analysis: a decision support tool for the control and prevention of animal diseases

The Resolution reiterates the importance of risk analysis methods for animal health related decision-making, based on the recommendations of
the OIE International Animal Health Code. It emphasises the importance for Member Countries not yet familiar with this new approach of setting up ad hoc units and developing training programmes, notably in developing countries.

Foot and mouth disease diagnostics: requirements for demonstration of freedom from infection

The Session acknowledged the usefulness of new serological diagnostic tests capable of differentiating, at the herd or flock level, antibodies from vaccinated animals from those of animals that have been in contact with live virus.

It confirmed that these tests provide a means of modernising foot and mouth disease control programmes, notably through new guidelines that Member Countries can apply to verify whether live virus is present in a country or zone, which would enable Member Countries to reduce sanitary slaughter.