Perspectives on food-safety issues of animal-derived foods

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Given its complexity and involvement in multiple sectors, AMR should be addressed by a comprehensive framework. This article introduces some basics regarding AMR from the food safety perspectives. AMR occurs naturally over time, usually by means of genetic changes. However, this process can be accelerated by misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals. Examples of misuse of antimicrobials include people taking antibiotics when they have viral infection and antibiotics given to food producing animals for growth promotion, without professional oversight.


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Although there are many possible routes of acquisition of AMR bacteria e. Source of information: Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Foods can act as a potential vehicle for transmission of AMR bacteria. We once visited a free-range egg farm where the birds had access to pasture but were continually preyed upon by hawks—this fear would certainly create stress. While there is no guarantee that these improvements are good for animal welfare or food safety, most published research contends that replacing battery cages with cage-free systems or enhanced cages [ 13 ] and converting gestation stalls to group pens[ 14 ] improve animal welfare.

And if animal welfare is improved, it is reasonable to believe stress and the shedding of pathogens are lowered—but there are no guarantees. We once talked to an egg farmer raising both caged and cage-free eggs, and his employees would not eat the eggs from the cage-free system, believing the difficulty of identifying and culling sick hens in a cage-free system makes the average egg more risky to eat.

The relationship between animal well-being and food safety becomes more complex when a farm uses a free-range system, where animals have access to both comfortable shelter and the outdoors. Hogs love mud, and mud is rarely sterile. Hogs eagerly root and engage in continuous social interactions.

Increased prospects for disease, infection and parasites can turn a happy hog into a sick hog. One of the original motivations for confining hogs to concrete floors inside buildings i. Lungworms were once found in at least one-half of hogs in the s, but today the parasite is a rarity.

Animal Welfare and Food Safety - Food Safety Magazine

The same can be said for kidney worms. Pork was once thought dangerous to eat if undercooked. The threat was trichinosis—another threat that is today almost nonexistent. Chickens would do the same. Farmers did not confine animals to cramped cages on hard floors out of malevolence but to reduce parasites and disease.

Animal welfare may be compromised by confinement, but animal health is improved, and with it food safety. Given the scientific advancements in animal production since the s, it might be possible to allow hogs outdoor access without the concomitant pathogens and parasites experienced by the farmer. Yet even today, research finds that hogs given outdoor access experience higher rates of Salmonella, Toxoplasma and Trichinella than hogs on conventional farms.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Free-range systems for layers and broilers face similar problems. Some of these systems confine the birds at night in large cages on wheels, taking the birds to different locations where they may forage naturally. Free-range poultry often share the pasture with cattle, sheep or goats, allowing cross-contamination between species.

Perspectives on Food-Safety Issues of Animal-Derived Foods

Scientists have measured Salmonella prevalence in poultry meat derived from pasture and organic systems, and tend to find the rates are comparable or higher than in conventionally produced poultry meat. Other articles on the welfare-safety link[ 26 ] considered animal treatment before slaughter, so we concentrate on other production stages in this paper. Contrary to other discussions on this issue, we also ignore antibiotic resistance in livestock.

There is a widely held notion that animals can be raised in cramped confinement only if they are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease. This does not seem to be the case. Our European contacts testify that the ban on antibiotics in Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom and other nations has not altered the production systems used. Food producers face a daunting challenge. Not only must they raise live animals that are naturally covered with bacteria, viruses and prions, and then transform the animal products into safe foods, producers must convince the public that the food is safe.

Their success is already astonishing if not publicly acknowledged—for every 39 million Americans, only 1 will die of a food-related illness, and he or she is typically very old, very young or has a compromised immune system. Despite developments in traceability systems, it is often impossible to precisely determine what actually causes a food to become contaminated. This, however, does not let the farmer off the hook.

When Food, Inc. Other people have died from E. Three people died from contaminated organic spinach in The bacterium could have been carried by the wind or water from a nearby farm to where the spinach was growing, but it could also have been the cattle manure used as fertilizer.

Nor do food activists criticize those who oppose irradiation—perhaps the most effective method of killing pathogens. Why the double standard? We believe much of it has to do with activist and consumer perceptions.

Food Safety Focus (135th Issue, October 2017) – Food Safety Platform

Because livestock industries use large-scale, factory-like methods of production, and because the processing and distribution stage are dominated by large corporations, food activists believe these corporations are motivated largely by greed for immediate profits, even at the expensive of consumer health. While many readers of this article will rightly balk at this caricature of meat production industries, it must be recognized that this is the view subtly expressed by food documentaries such as Food, Inc.

As a result, in this sensationalistic atmosphere, the livestock industry is likely to be deemed guilty in every outbreak of foodborne illness until proven innocent. The apparent anti-industry bias also means that illness traceable to organic or local food producers will probably be chalked up to an innocent mistake. If farmers had abstained from using a feed that they knew most people would find repugnant—and about which there was still some scientific doubt—the reputation of livestock industries might not have been tarnished.

If a farmer prevents a sow from turning around because it saves money, will the farmer also cut corners on food safety to save money? If a farmer crams a hen into a small cage with four other hens to boost production, would he be unwilling to lower output by removing sick hens from the food production channel?

While the first priority of producers of meat, eggs and dairy products is ensuring food is safe, in reality, safe food only has value if it is also perceived to be safe. Let there be no doubt, regardless of whether higher animal welfare creates safer food, food from happy animals will be considered safer. In Summary In general, production systems that provide animals outdoor access have the potential to expose animals to pathogens, viruses and other parasites.

In some cases, it appears that this potential is realized. However, in other cases, perhaps due to effects of lower stocking densities or better managerial competence, the risks can be alleviated or even reversed. In short, animal housing conditions are but one factor, and a far from deciding factor, affecting food safety.

Consumers conflate perceptions of safety with perceptions of animal welfare. They are not necessarily irrational in doing so, as care and managerial competence in one domain are likely to be correlated with meticulousness in another. However, through pictures and videos, consumers can readily observe tidiness and stocking density, and the ability of animals to exhibit natural behaviors. Although these do not necessarily relate to food safety, it is not wholly unreasonable for consumers to presume that someone who cares about the one cares about the other.

If we are really concerned about the volume of pathogens people actually consume, then we must also be aware of their perceptions—which drive what they put in their mouths.

Bailey Norwood, Ph. Jayson L. Lusk, Ph. After earning a B. References 1. Shamberg, S. Jacobs [producers]. Soderbergh, S. Burns, S. Contagion [film]. Warner Brothers Pictures [distributor]. Hoffman, S. Knowing which foods are making us sick.

Choices 2nd Quarter.

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