22 Feb 2019

The Veterinarian primary guarantor of public health

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The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) is an umbrella organisation for veterinary organisations from more than 32 countries and represents the veterinary profession at European level. Four specialist groups can be found within the FVE: Practitioners (UEVP), Hygienists and Inspectors (UEVH), Veterinary State Officers (EASVO) and Veterinarians in Education, Research and Industry (EVERI). For Dr Christophe Buhot, President of the FVE, veterinarians are more necessary than ever "from stable to table".

Agriculture Internationale - What are the role, prerogatives and resources of the ?

Christophe BuhotChristophe BuhotChristophe Buhot - FVE's objective is to federate the European veterinary profession for the benefit of animal health and welfare and the health of the public. We try to structure and represent the opinions of the members of the veterinary profession in Europe in one, united voice.

We represent 46 national veterinary organisations from 38 European countries. Four European organisations are also members of FVE: the European Association of State Veterinary Officers, European Veterinarians in Education, Research and Industry, the Union of European Veterinary Hygienists and the Union of European Veterinary Practitioners. We therefore represent around 200,000 veterinarians. The European veterinary profession, represented by FVE, promotes animal health and welfare as well as public health across Europe.

Together with its members, FVE's objective is to support veterinarians, helping them deliver the best quality service possible and one that is recognised and valued by society. Our offices, with five permanent employees, are located in Brussels.

Two general assemblies bring together all the members and many specialist working groups to give advice, recommendations and opinions on a wide variety of subjects such as the availability of veterinary medicines, meat inspection, the definition of a veterinarian and the veterinary act, antibioresistance, continuing education, the transport of cattle and the identification of domestic carnivores, to name but a few.

A.I. - Do its network, monitoring and control tools allow the Federation to ensure the optimal safety of meat products intended for human and animal consumption?

C.B. - FVE does not intervene directly to ensure the quality and safety of meat products. FVE and its specialist group of hygienists are drawing up a policy on the subject in anticipation, studying the documents and proposals made by the Commission and actively developing a strategy that will influence the Commission, Parliament and the Council.

A.I. - In your opinion, does the reintroduction of animal meal into feed intended for the consumption of monogastric animals carry all the guarantees needed to ensure food safety?

C.B. - No scientific arguments have been put forward against the introduction of processed animal proteins (PAPs), especially since these PAPs are completely different from the "animal meal" used in 1996 that was responsible for the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis. What we now have are proteins from the by-products of healthy animals (pigs, fish and poultry) but which are not intended for human consumption for commercial or technological reasons.

Nonetheless, extra precautions have been introduced in that PAPs can only be used in feed for pigs, poultry, fish and shellfish, species in which transmissible encephalopathy has never been notified and any recycling of PAPs via their species of origin is forbidden. Moreover, the strict separation of sectors by species must be set up in addition to rigorous checks on manufacturing and imports. The animal feed and by-product processing sectors have arranged to set up this type of separation. There only remains the implementation of the financial and human resources needed to carry out the checks. It seems to me that extensive guarantees have therefore been introduced and it would be a great pity to deprive ourselves of a source of excellent quality protein that is much cheaper than cereals.

vachesA.I. - Does the opening up of the markets and the importation into the European Union of meat from third countries that this implies, represent a problem for you with regard to its safety and levels of hygiene?

C.B. - Imports from third countries must come from authorised establishments whose sanitary norms correspond to those of the European Union. Checks are carried out at frontier check-points. FVE can see no particular risks or problems on condition that sufficient resources and means are available to ensure and guarantee the smooth running of these checks. It is vital that imports and the opening-up of the markets does not endanger our food safety and as a result, the economy of our production channels.

A.I. - Could veterinarians be integrated further into the meat supply chain as a way of increasing its reliability and transparency?

C.B. - FVE is convinced of the need for the presence of veterinarians along the whole length of the food chain as expressed by the now familiar expression "from stable to table". However, better use could be made of veterinary resources, in particular as regards information on the food chain. This includes not only information from livestock farms, but also from abattoirs. All the information should be collected and processed, and the veterinarian would then represent added-value in terms of the interests of consumers and producers.

Projects for the modernisation of meat inspection procedures have shown that the future lies in a move from checks on meat safety to checks and monitoring of the health and welfare of the animals from which the meat comes. The veterinarian is ready to play a bigger role in this new system and to ensure that it is well grounded in science and in tune with the wishes of consumers. The FVE would like at one and the same time to develop livestock farming and to be able to reassure consumers.

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