Food safety policies updated

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Four AVMA policies relating to food safety saw revisions proposed by the Food Safety Advisory Committee accepted by the Executive Board during its Nov. 15-17, 2012, meeting in Schaumburg.

House Advisory Committee Chair Karen Bradley makes a point during the Executive Board’s
deliberations. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

The policy “Approval and Availability of Antimicrobials for Use in Food Producing Animals” had been amended so the wording ensures the policy is “consistent with current efforts while still maintaining the AVMA’s support for Food and Drug Administration’s use of scientific methods supported by substantial data to evaluate product safety and efficacy when approving antimicrobials for use in food-producing animals,” according to the recommendation background.

Other changes to the policy were made to produce a more clear and concise policy statement.

On the policy “Processes for Microbial Reduction in Food” (originally titled “Position on Food Irradiation”), the FSAC recommended edits so that the policy refers to “microbial reduction” rather than “food irradiation.” The changes reflect that fact that various multiple pathogen–reduction technologies besides irradiation, such as hyperbaric treatment and pasteurization, can ensure food safety.

The “Organic Foods” policy was altered to remove the sentence “AVMA recommends that a veterinarian be part of each team that visits farms to certify that the health and welfare of animals are being addressed,” among other edits.

The FSAC explained that it believes “it is important to ensure that food producing animals receive medically necessary treatments yet also recognizes that some treatments may jeopardize an animal’s organic status,” such as administration of antimicrobials. This is why the committee instead added wording that encourages producers to “provide medically necessary treatments under the direction of a veterinarian, regardless of the impact on an animal’s organic status.”

Dr. Christine Hoang, an assistant director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division, further pointed out that these edits are intended to be reflective of current veterinary interaction with the organic industry.

Finally, the FSAC recommended changes to the policy “Veterinary Student Training Programs in Food Safety, Security, and Defense” (originally titled “USDA FSIS Food Safety Internships and other Student Programs”) to recognize that multiple government agencies host such programs besides the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

In other action, the board decided to draft its own revisions to the policy “Veterinarian as FSIS Administrator.” The proposed wording says the AVMA supports the appointment of veterinarians in the offices of the FSIS undersecretary of food safety and deputy undersecretary of food safety. Some board members wanted to expand the scope of the policy by including more agencies and not just government positions. Others suggested rescinding the policy altogether. The recommendation was referred back to the FSAC.