Veterinarians protect America's – and the world's – food supply from the farm to the dinner table. The veterinary community involved in Food Supply Veterinary Medicine helps to protect the health and welfare of animals that produce eggs, milk, meat, wool, and other protein and fiber products. Diseases pose risks to herd health just as they do to public health. As veterinarians, charged ethically with promoting public health and protecting animal health and welfare, we have great interest in the surveillance, prevention, control, and treatment of disease.
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Healthy animals mean healthy products, and private practitioners are crucial in helping to achieve both. Veterinarians provide the needed expertise and services to help their clients ensure the health and welfare of their animals. In addition, they provide guidance and client education to better ensure that medications and other treatments are given appropriately and that the necessary withdrawal times are allowed, both of which are essential to avoid drug residues. Private practitioners are a front line defense in the surveillance, prevention, and treatment of animal diseases; and Accredited veterinarians carry additional training and responsibilities pertaining to regulation of some of these diseases.
Establishments selling their products require inspection, which is provided by federal or state authorities. In both, veterinarians are central to ensuring safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged meat and poultry products.
Veterinarians within the FSIS have the expertise to evaluate the health status of animals submitted for slaughter as well as the humane handling of the animals by the transporters and slaughter facilities. FSIS is the largest employer of veterinarians in the U.S. Some of duties and responsibilities of FSIS veterinarians include:
Corporate veterinarians provide food safety oversight for global food supply corporations. Their positions include oversight of programs and trade of animal commodities.
Federal veterinarians within the Food and Drug Administration also work to provide data to be used by the U.S. Trade Representative in free trade agreement negotiations.
Once products are purchased by consumers, it is up to them to handle, store, and use the products appropriately. The food supply in the U.S. is among the safest in the world; however, all the safeguards and steps taken before the product reaches the store may not compensate for end user errors such as accidentally leaving the products in the car or on the counter for too long, not following label directions, forgetting to wash your hands before or after handling the product, or a host of other possibilities.
Defense of our nation’s herds and flocks as well as our domestic and international food supply is essential. There are many who contribute to the effort, and veterinarians are key. In addition to the private practitioners mentioned above, below are just a few examples of how veterinarians can be involved in the defense of our food supply, herds, and flocks.