AAFSV Position Statements

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Position Statements on Food Safety

Education | Public Practice

Position Statement on Food Safety Education in Colleges of Veterinary Medicine

Developed by the American Association of Food Safety Veterinarians

Food Hygiene Veterinarians are highly trained medical professionals. Their knowledge of microbiology, epidemiology, sanitation and animal diseases, and the relationship of these factors to human health make them uniquely qualified to determine the safety of foods of animal origin. The education and training of these veterinarians as food hygiene/food safety professionals place them at the forefront for crucial leadership of food safety programs.

Food hygiene is a specialized field of veterinary medicine. The specialty is founded on an undergraduate science-based curriculum and a professional curriculum of four years at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. Many veterinarians gain further specialty knowledge of food hygiene from graduate and post doctoral education, preceptorships, and on-the-job training. The veterinary education traditionally involved several areas of concentration. These included; the study of animal production medicine, the etiology, prevention and treatment of diseases (including those contagious and infectious to humans), principles of epidemiology and investigation of disease outbreaks, and the dynamics of population medicine. That education equipped veterinarians with an understanding of the role of food animals and foods of animal origin in human disease unequaled in any other profession.

The advantages provided to the Nation's health by veterinarians possessing advanced knowledge in food safety and preventive medicine are recognized and cited in many arenas. This fact, however, goes unrecognized or unacknowledged by many lawmakers, government officials, consumer advocates or the public. Veterinarians are commonly perceived in their traditional limited roles as doctors only to companion animals and livestock. The veterinary profession faces an opportune time to influence and inform non-veterinarians regarding the incomparable value of veterinarians to this expanding public health challenge. Our organizations at all levels must assume greater responsibility for educating others regarding the critical public service capably provided by veterinary medicine.

Unfortunately, many of the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine in the United States have failed to adequately emphasize the relationship of veterinary medicine to food safety and preventive medicine. Veterinary medical education has also failed to adequately address the important work undertaken by both public and private sector practitioners in areas concerned with food hygiene, public health and regulatory medicine. Continued failure to recognize and teach the importance of food safety and its relationship to public health will produce veterinarians with severely limited awareness and expertise in these areas of public health. The inevitable situation described poses increased risk to consumers because the threat of food borne diseases to public health will go increasingly unrecognized by unprepared practitioners.

Opportunities for students in areas of public practice are either not stressed or are relegated to a status secondary to the private practitioner. This attitude discourages or impedes the interests of competitive students when considering non-clinical careers in public health. Students encouraged to pursue traditional practice, rather than cultivating their primary interests, may gravitate to routine clinical positions before eventually pursuing their interests in public practice and public health. Students must receive a clear view of all disciplines available within the profession. Given full consideration of the inherent role of our profession in food hygiene and public health, Colleges of Veterinary Medicine must review their curriculum, faculty and teaching methods, and make changes which ensure broadened didactics of appropriate subjects. The inclusion of studies in preventive medicine with particular focus on food safety, applied zoonosis and introductory epidemiology is strongly encouraged.

An undelayed paradigm shift is critical. We must move away from the standard of healing at any cost, to a heightened awareness that every sick food animal can potentially enter the food chain. Each graduating veterinarian must understand that he or she has an obligation to the consuming public. The attending veterinarian holds responsibility for the assurance that all interventions in the treatment process are both medically sound and promote the health of the consumer. Our profession's recognition of the necessity for producing safe foods of animal origin, and our understanding of processes necessary to attain that goal, position the veterinary profession for appropriate leadership roles in public health. Failure to respond to these challenges creates a void to be filled by less qualified specialists. In consideration of the limited resources available to colleges, perhaps modifications in conventional teaching parameters offer avenues to embrace the opportunities at hand.

Position on Food Safety Veterinarians in Public Practice

Developed by the American Association of Food Safety Veterinarians

Food Hygiene Veterinarians are highly trained medical professionals. Their knowledge of microbiology, epidemiology, sanitation and animal diseases, and the relationship of these factors to human health make them uniquely qualified to determine the safety of foods of animal origin. The education and training of these veterinarians as food hygiene/food safety professionals place them at the forefront for crucial leadership of food safety programs.

Food hygiene is a specialized field of veterinary medicine. The specialty is founded on an undergraduate science-based curriculum and a professional curriculum of four years at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. Many veterinarians gain further specialty knowledge of food hygiene from graduate and post doctoral education, preceptorships, and on-the-job training. The veterinary education involves several areas of concentration. These include: the study of animal production medicine, the etiology, prevention and treatment of diseases (including those contagious and infectious to humans), principles of epidemiology and investigation of disease outbreaks, and the dynamics of population medicine. Thus, the veterinarian's education provides an understanding of the role of food animals and foods of animal origin in human disease that is unequaled in any other profession.

The risk of acquiring a serious life threatening disease related to one of the newly emerging pathogens as the consequence of consuming meat, poultry, milk, cheese, eggs, or fish causes marked concern to many consumers. Multiple food borne illnesses have been documented over the past few years and continue to occur. These illnesses clearly demonstrate the need for educated professionals with the ability to access the health risks and establish processes that will reduce or eliminate these public health threats. The food hygiene veterinarian is best equipped to assume this role. The food hygiene veterinarian is also ideally suited and positioned to recognize and report agents of foreign animal diseases entering the food chain.

The advantages provided to the Nation's health by veterinarians possessing advanced knowledge in food safety and preventive medicine are recognized and cited in many arenas. This fact, however, goes unrecognized or unacknowledged by many lawmakers, government officials, consumer advocates or the public. Veterinarians are commonly perceived in their traditional limited roles as doctors only to companion animals and livestock. More succinctly, with the added specialized training and experience in food safety, veterinarians offer irreplaceable opportunities to public health organizations at all levels; these professionals are most capable to serve as managers and leaders in public health practice.

An undelayed paradigm shift is critical. We must move away from the traditional standards of healing and patient care to strong reliance on disease prevention. Preventive strategies based on interventions to benefit large groups or populations rather than individuals, particularly regarding the elimination and prevention of disease agents in foods, inherently call for public health veterinarians grounded in specialized professional training and experiences. Health promotion directed at populations also underscores options which alleviate the constraints and decrements facing the Nation in all areas of traditional primary health care. This shift in strategies benefiting the Nation's health requires appropriate use of all resources, including food hygiene veterinarians.

 

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