CVMA President Ron Faoro, DVM, says veterinarians are present in just about every step taken to put food on your table. "We have colleagues working on local, state and national levels in Food & Agriculture Departments, Health Services, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Fish and Game Departments," says Faoro. "Private practice veterinarians treat farm and ranch animals; USDA veterinarian inspectors ensure animal health before production, as well as safety during processing; and public health veterinarians monitor and control disease outbreaks. We all work together to prevent food-borne diseases in this country."
During the recent tainted spinach recall, California public health veterinarians immediately were dispatched to cattle lots near suspected spinach fields to test the livestock and surrounding environment for E. coli. "When it comes to public health, veterinarians often work behind the scenes in surveillance, prevention, control, response and education," Faoro points out. "Their unique training and expertise in animal science, as well as their understanding of environmental factors, make them an integral part of the team investigating zoonotic diseases."
Zoonotic diseases are caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Most strains of E. coli bacteria naturally occur in healthy animals but some are quite toxic for humans, as was the case with the spinach recall, which led public health veterinarians to an animal source. "The public health veterinarian is critically important to ensuring a safe food supply," states Faoro. "From detective work to public outreach to creating policy and laws, the veterinarian is involved, often in a leading role."
The CVMA also emphasizes consumer responsibility and underscores cautious cooking and serving measures to continue the line of safety. Healthy habits such as cooking your foods well, washing your hands before and after handling foods and keeping separate, clean cutting boards for meat and poultry will help avoid food-related problems during holiday get-togethers.
For media interviews with a California veterinarian regarding this issue, please contact Phil Boerner at the CVMA: 916-649-0599. To access past CVMA press releases, visit the CVMA Media Center in the News Room at www.cvma.net.
The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 5,600 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.