The recent outbreak of bird 'flu' has highlighted the possibility of diseases carried by animals and birds being passed to humans. The greatest risk comes from transferable diseases that are widespread amongst farmed species like pigs and chickens and can be picked up by people. Salmonella and Campylobacter, for example, are easily transmitted along the food chain. The potential risk is growing now that food is often transported across very large distances while people also travel much further and more frequently than they used to. Much of the food eaten in countries with exacting safety standards may now be produced in places where supervision is less strict. Under these conditions, an international approach to reducing the risk of human infection from animal sources is likely to be most effective.
AN UNTAPPED RESOURCE
Rapid international communication about health risks has, until now, focused mainly on human health. Veterinarians also have a significant contribution to make and a new international network, EU-US-SAFEFOOD, has been set up between research networks in Europe and the US to work on animal diseases (zoonoses) transmitted through food. The two contributing networks are the European MED-VETNET, a new 'virtual' research institute on zoonoses and food-borne disease, and the US FS-CAP, which has a multidisciplinary remit to advise on agricultural policy and food safety. Both networks undertake to use their knowledge and fast response capacity to support and advise government policy-makers. The partners in this European Specific Support Action include four European veterinary institutes and the European Zoonoses Reference Centre.
Importantly, this transatlantic strategic alliance has the long-term aim of improving scientific understanding of the problem, so that authorities can respond quickly in an agreed way to international incidents.
GETTING TOGETHER ON ZOONOSES
As well as setting up a virtual network, EU-US-SAFEFOOD will hold a series of workshops where researchers can get together 'face to face'. There will be four such events over three years, two in the United States and two in Europe, with equal numbers of scientists attending from both continents. The subjects for the four workshops will be chosen during the course of the study, to deal with new and emerging food-borne pathogens, and to keep veterinarians up to date with the latest research and information.
A scientist exchange programme enabling European researchers to go individually to different research centres in the US is also part of the programme. Here they will share expertise, learn about the latest facilities and make less formal contacts that will encourage professional development and the sharing of information. Up to 20 scientists will get grants for short visits.
The knowledge on food-borne zoonoses generated within EU-US-SAFE-FOOD will also be shared more widely with all stakeholders in the area of food safety. A website will be set up to publish reports on the workshops, details of experts in the field, and links to other relevant sites. The achievements of the network will be presented at international microbiology meetings, thereby contributing to food safety and health knowledge throughout the world.
List of Partners
- Veterinary Laboratories Agency (UK)
- Animal Sciences Group (The Netherlands)
- Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research (Denmark)
- Veterinary Research Institute (Czech Republic)
- Society for Applied Microbiology (UK)
- AFSSA (France)
- Veterinary School, Complutense University (Spain)
- Full title:
- Developing a strategic transatlantic approach to food safety
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Diane G Newell,
Veterinary Laboratories Agency
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Jean-Charles Cavitte,
- EU contribution:
- € 380,000
- Specific Support Action