Food safety


Veterinarians traditionally have a vital role in the advancement and maintenance of food safety for the benefit of society. Increasing stresses on our environment and rapid technological changes can affect the safety of large amounts of food in a short time. Food production and processing technologies are becoming increasingly complex and increasingly remote from consumers. The veterinary profession is the only health profession that is actively involved in all aspects of the food chain from farm production of food animals to the consumption of the food products derived from those animals.

It is the policy of the AVMA to help assure that the supply of foods of animal origin, including meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, dairy, and eggs shall be safe and wholesome. The AVMA shall encourage its members to promote responsible animal production and husbandry to assist in all matters related to increasing the safety and quality of meat, milk, fish and shell fish, poultry, and related food products. The AVMA shall actively pursue appropriate educational, legislative, and regulatory measures to meet those goals.

  1. The AVMA advocates the assurance of food quality and safety from farm to fork, including
    1. The production of safe and wholesome food from healthy animals that are raised in a healthful environment with close professional monitoring to minimize traumatic, infectious, and parasitic diseases and chemical residues.
    2. Mandatory animal identification to enable tracking of animals through marketing channels to point of harvest and trace back to origins.
    3. Quality assurance programs as cooperative efforts between food animal producers and their veterinarians to meet or exceed standards established by government regulators and expected by consumers.
    4. Preharvest certification to comply with production and health standards for food animals should be accomplished by accredited private veterinarians in addition to regulatory veterinarians.
    5. Humane treatment of animals throughout production, marketing, and processing.
    6. Sanitary harvesting of food animals and sanitary processing of foods in scientifically managed facilities where management and labor cooperate and are responsible for producing safe wholesome food products.
    7. Hygienic, safe handling and storage of foods by trained food handlers in all processing, transportation, wholesale, retail, and food service activities.
    8. Continual education and training of professional food handlers and food service managers.
    9. Consumer education to create awareness of the potential risks of improperly handled foods, and to promote personal and food hygiene practices, including proper sanitation, handling, storage, and preparation of meat, milk, dairy products, poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish, and related products to maintain quality and to prevent recontamination and spoilage.
    10. The ongoing assessment and mitigation of the vulnerability of the food production continuum to natural and intentional hazards.
  2. The AVMA advocates a science-based food safety system as a comprehensive process of ante- and post-mortem evaluation, which includes detection of physical defects, infectious agents, pharmaceuticals, and chemical residues in food. The system should include:
    1. Research on technological and personnel approaches to improve food safety.
    2. Science-based risk analysis.
    3. Careful organoleptic examination of all carcasses to detect tumors and other neoplasms, inflammation, bruises, fractures, parasites, and injection sites, and to exclude unsafe or unwholesome products.
    4. Monitoring of facilities and products at slaughter, processing, distribution, and sales.
    5. Process management and plant sanitation controls to preclude recontamination.
    6. Use of veterinarians' scientific and public health knowledge and skills in the development, promotion, and management of animal health, the prevention minimization of microbiological and chemical contaminants, assessment of the safety of animal products, and protection of public health.
    7. Development and strengthening of advanced educational programs in food safety for veterinary medical and graduate students, and of continuing education in public health and food hygiene for veterinarians and food inspectors.
  3. The AVMA advocates cooperative federal and state regulatory and educational action toward food safety assurance, including:
    1. A coordinated, integrated, unified food safety regulatory program that is effectively enforced and that cooperates closely with state and municipal programs.
    2. The overseeing agency or agencies should have the expertise and resources to manage the full scope of the food quality assurance program as a continuous process through production, processing, distribution, sales, and consumption, including consumer education through the cooperative extension service and other forms of outreach.
    3. Leadership positions in food safety management should be held by veterinarians. Veterinarians are educated in comparative medicine, pathology, physiology, toxicology, microbiology, pharmacology, immunology, epidemiology, parasitology, and public health.
    4. The safety assurance of animal-derived food products throughout processing and marketing channels should be publicly funded, and it should be managed and performed by government regulatory officials.
    5. Requirements that imported foods meet the same production and quality standards as domestic products.
    6. Public education on purchasing, handling, storing, preparing, and serving foods for food service establishments and consumers to ensure their safety.

Relevant AVMA policy:

Food animal health emergency planning

Organic foods

Truthful and non-misleading human food labeling