Economic Evaluation of Defra Policy on Food-Borne Pathogens in Live Animals

UK - The principal aim of the study was to evaluate the effects of Defra policies to minimise contamination of the food chain through reducing the prevalence of food-borne pathogens for which farm livestock acts as a reservoir.
calendar icon 26 November 2003
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The report provides an extensive review of literature and research on food-borne pathogens in live animals (up to 2001). There is limited information on incidence over time and on the temporal trends of carriage of the pathogens concerned. Given these information constraints, it is, in many cases, not known which measures might be best to adopt to reduce the incidence of pathogens in live animals. It would appear that there has been some success in reducing food-borne pathogens, particularly with regard to Salmonella enteriditis. The report presents a catalogue of measures undertaken by MAFF (now Defra) to control food-borne pathogens in live animals.

A survey of experts to assess the relative effectiveness of Defra policy on the control of food-borne pathogens in live animals found that respondents considered Defra to be relatively effective in controlling Salmonella in poultry but less effective at controlling other pathogens in farm species. The main reasons given for this were the lack of available scientific information concerning transmission and control of these pathogens. Case-study interviews of livestock producers found that producers were relatively unaware about Defra policies for the control of food-borne pathogens but compliance with policy was high because of its incorporation into farm assurance schemes, and Defra has clearly been successful in this regard. The benefits of Defra policy measures were thought to outweigh the costs to producers of implementation.

In-depth interviews were undertaken with representatives from a number of key livestock organisations. The lack of information concerning the carriage and control of pathogens was generally noted, and the need for further research into the transmission and control of food-borne pathogens was stressed. Defra policy was seen in a generally positive light and representatives of these organisations perceived an important partnership between producer groups/producers and Defra. A telephone survey of livestock producers found that (i) producers were largely unaware of Defra policies; (ii) producers practised all or most of the measures contained within Defra policies (largely because these were incorporated into farm assurance schemes); (iii) measures undertaken by producers were sometimes more stringent than Defra policy; (iv) producers generally perceive a net benefit from Defra policy to control food-borne pathogens in live animals.

The main findings of the study are: 1) there is a lack of information and knowledge about food-borne pathogens and thus it is very difficult for Defra to formulate specific control policies; 2) this lack of knowledge and information is seen throughout the industry and along the food chain with poor awareness about Defra policy concerning the control of food-borne pathogens in live animals, although Defra policy is successfully communicated to producers through farm assurance schemes; 3) producers and producer groups acknowledge the benefits of Defra policy, and perceive the benefits of policy to outweigh the costs 4) there is a clear continued role for Defra to support research on foodborne pathogens, work in partnership with the livestock industry and liaise productively with organisations and stakeholders along the food chain.

Two main recommendations arise from the study.

  1. Defra should consider improving communication of its policy on food-borne pathogens with producers and others – perhaps by means of a booklet and/or by means of a dedicated part of the Defra website.
  2. Defra should commission targeted research into the efficacy of measures to reduce the prevalence of food-borne pathogens in live farm animals. This research should be considered and undertaken with reference to assessment (using risk and epidemiological analyses) of the extent to which reductions in the prevalence of specific pathogens in live animals are likely to reduce the incidence of cases of food-borne illness in the human population. On-going surveillance of food-borne pathogens in live animals, requiring limited, but statistically robust and consistent, periodic, random surveys is needed.

Further Information

To read the full report, please click here

Source: Defra - 21st November 2003

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