BEIJING – CHINA must adopt a holistic approach to addressing food safety challenges connected to the risk of contracting infectious diseases from contact with animals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Peter Ben Embarek, food safety officer at WHO’s China office, said the country faces risks connected to the need to produce more meat, eggs and milk to feed its growing population. He said the increased production will ramp up the risk of people being infected by food-borne diseases because of poor slaughtering oversight and the absence of proper surveillance and inspection systems.
About 50 per cent of pigs in China are slaughtered outside of formal facilities without the inspection of veterinarians or food safety officers. He said poorly trained producers have little or no awareness of food safety or the risk of animal diseases being passed on to humans.
Such an environment could lead to the emergence of a new pandemic of influenza.
In only the second elimination of a disease in history, rinderpest — a virus that used to kill cattle by the millions, leading to famine and death among humans — has been declared wiped off the face of the earth.
Rinderpest, which means “cattle plague” in German, does not infect humans, though it belongs to the same viral family as measles. But for millenniums in Asia, Europe and Africa it wiped out cattle, water buffalo, yaks and other animals needed for meat, milk, plowing and cart-pulling.
Its mortality rate is about 80 percent — higher even than smallpox, the only other disease ever eliminated.
“This is something the entire global community can be proud of,” said Dr. William R. White, director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s foreign animal disease diagnostic laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y. “Rinderpest has caused almost unimaginable misery for a very long time.”
The last case was seen in Kenya in 2001. On Thursday, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization announced that it was dropping its field surveillance efforts because it was convinced that the disease was gone.