Safety CD released

Related tags Agriculture Usda

The USDA has released an informational compact disc for federal and
state agriculture vets. The move is designed to prevent the
intentional and unintentional introduction of animal diseases into
the nation's food production chain.

"This new tool provides federal, state and private veterinarians immediate access to resources and relevant information to help them more effectively identify, respond to, control and facilitate recovery from a foreign animal disease outbreak,"​ said US agriculture secretary Ann Veneman.

Shortly after the events of September 11, Veneman formed a Homeland Security Council within the department to develop a plan and coordinate efforts among all USDA agencies and offices. The council focused on food supply and agriculture production, USDA facilities and staff and emergency preparedness.

The compact disc is designed to bring homeland security issues to the attention of the agricultural industry. It offers comprehensive information on infectious disease threats to livestock, animal disease awareness briefings, standard veterinary medical information for diagnosing such diseases and emergency information gathering and reporting mechanisms.

The information resource also outlines routine biosecurity measures for on-site farm visits, recommends emergency response plans and suggests disease monitoring methods. The CD supports the National Animal Health Emergency Management System's goals, which are preventing the introduction of foreign and emerging animal pathogens, being prepared to detect and manage an outbreak of a foreign animal disease and having an appropriate response system for control and eradication of the disease.

The disc, is entitled "Food Security: The Threat to American Livestock,"​ and was developed in conjunction with Auburn University and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS). It is part of an extensive programme to enhance its readiness to detect, deter and respond to terrorist events involving plant or animal pathogens.

State and federal officials who have a role to fulfill in the event of an unintentional or intentional threat to US livestock will also have access to this data bank.

This is just the latest development in attempts to safeguard America's food chain. Last month, lawmakers proposed a mandatory livestock identification system to combat outbreaks of food borne disease such as mad cow or foot and mouth disease. The system would work by keeping track of herd movements and being able to quickly identify animals suspected of carrying disease.

If the bill is passed, it would give the US agricultural department (USDA) 90 days to establish a nationwide, electronic livestock identification system that could track farm-raised animals, such as cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry, from birth to slaughter. The estimated cost of the project has been put at $175 million (€138m).

Agriculture secretary Ann Veneman said that the USDA had not decided if participation in the programme should be mandatory. She said that the USDA should set standards for the livestock tracking system but not specify use of a particular technology. The task of effectively identifying every animal in the US is a daunting challenge, no matter which system is finally adopted. There are 95 million cattle and calves, 60 million pigs and tens of millions of chickens, turkeys and ducks in the United States, according to USDA figures.

However, it is clear that the first case of mad cow disease in the US has given impetus to the concept of a comprehensive animal ID system. Other countries, including Canada, already have traceback systems, which have been proven to be far more effective than the tracking and record keeping systems used in the US.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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