Healthy animals - Safe food

Over the years the improved health status of animals and the establishment of veterinary hygiene systems have resulted in greater food safety guarantees than ever. Nevertheless, consumer interest in ‘food safety’ remains high.

Healthy food from healthy animals

Healthy animals help to ensure a safe food supply. They also grow properly, make best use of the food they eat and produce good quality foodstuffs, such as meat, dairy products and eggs, at affordable prices. Sick or suffering animals not only cost more to feed and treat their disease or clinical condition but the meat, milk or eggs they produce often cannot be sold. In more extreme cases, it may not even be safe to eat food from animals that are diseased, as there could be a risk that disease could be passed to humans. Medicines are essential if these hazards are to be effectively controlled – and have made a great contribution to the health and welfare of animals. Health schemes coordinated between public authorities and the veterinary profession, together with the development of good diagnostic tools, and preventive measures such as vaccination as well as medicines to treat diseases, represent a key element to guarantee that food from animals is safe from disease in terms of public health.

Licensed animal medicines are safe

They are scientifically assessed…

Animal medicine companies invest significant resources in developing, testing and manufacturing safe, effective medicines.
Europe has one of the world’s most stringent licensing systems for controlling veterinary medicines.

Medicines cannot be sold unless they satisfy very strict criteria, set down in European law, to prove that they are of good quality, they are efficacious (they do what they are supposed to do) and above all, they are safe – that is – safe to the animal that receives them, safe for the user of the medicine, safe for the environment and safe for the consumer of any meat or produce from the animal.

The data the company provides to satisfy these criteria are assessed by regulators and independent experts in the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) if the product is to be sold Europe-wide, or by national regulatory bodies for a national marketing authorisation application.

They are monitored… 

Marketing authorisations are granted in respect of use in specific species at specific doses for specific conditions – the licensed recommendations for use. Unless the veterinary surgeon feels it is necessary for the health and welfare of the animal, a rare occurrence that is only how the medicine will ever be used.

Checks continue once a product has been authorised and is in use through the European pharmacovigilance system, which provides a means for reporting and co-ordinating suspected adverse reactions, which would include where a medicine does not seem to be as effective as expected, an unexpected side-effect or where there seem to be problems relating to residue detection.

In the very rare cases that this type of thing occurs, it is investigated: the conditions of use may be altered or if deemed necessary, the product could even be taken off the market. While this is extremely rare, it is reassuring for consumers to know that the system is in place.

Use is controlled…

How the medicine can be sold is also controlled. Under the new European Directive, all medicines for farm animals will only be available on prescription.

Farmers play their part: every time a farm animal is treated or preventive medicine used, a record must be kept. Furthermore, the animals or their produce (eggs, meat and milk) may not enter the food chain until a specified period (the withdrawal period) following medication has passed. There are codes of practice for responsible use of animal medicines, such as those produced by the UK organisation RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) Alliance, which provides species-specific guidance for the responsible use of antimicrobials. Similar guidelines have been drawn by the World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Health Organisation with input from our industry.

The establishment of withdrawal periods1 is built into the process that an animal medicines company goes through to get a marketing authorisation. They are based on maximum residue limits (MRL)2. Withdrawal periods exist to ensure MRLs are not exceeded and present no risk to the consumer.

To ensure that the controls put in place are working, under European legislation there is a statutory residue surveillance programme, and some member states carry out additional surveillance too. Results can be published nationally and are extremely encouraging, showing that animal medicines are being use responsibly.

IFAH-Europe endorses a unique identification system for animal health products, as traceability of food integrates the traceability of our products and of treatments.

The illegal importation of animal medicines negates this traceability and jeopardises food safety and consumer confidence.

Veterinary medicines – responsibly used – are an indispensable tool to treat and above all, to prevent animal disease. Their contribution is crucial to animal health and to the supply of healthy, high quality and affordable food for the benefit of consumers.

Healthy animals – safe food.

1The minimum time after which a medicine is given that animal can be slaughtered for human consumption or its produce enter the food chain.

2 An MRL is the maximum concentration of residue following administration of a veterinary medicine that is legally permitted or acceptable under the laws of the EU.


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