Healthy Food from Farm to Fork27 August 2008
SERBIA - A new stage has been launched in the five-year EU-funded programme of the European Agency for Reconstruction to help improve food safety in Serbia.
In a two-year project costing €1.5 million, a German team will provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management to review and consolidate the system of animal identification and registration - which, with EU help, has been developed over this period - and to bring it fully into line with EU practice and legislation.
The latest phase of the programme was promoted at a press event on 2 August in the livestock market in the town of Obrenovac on the outskirts of Belgrade.
Since the animal ID and registration scheme was started in 2003, huge numbers of farm animals have been registered in the Ministry’s central database: 2.3 million cattle in 300,000 holdings, 1.6 million sheep in 104,000 holdings, 122,000 goats in 26,500 holdings and 8 million pigs in 310,059 holdings. Data were collected and entered by the veterinary stations situated across Serbia. The system’s infrastructure was designed to allow any kind of data exchange between the field and the central database and other relevant institutions.
The system ‘users’ are the Ministry’s Veterinary Directorate, and veterinary inspectors and stations. The functions of the system include remote data entry (to register new holdings, newborn calves, imported animals, all types of movements of animals, requests for ear-tags and replacement ear-tags) and data retrieval (searching for holdings, keepers, animals, lists of animals, tracing forward and backward, simple statistics, etc.).
EAR programme manager Simon Davies said that the overall aim of the new project was to bring this system into full compliance with all the provisions prescribed by European legislation.
Once the audit has been fully analysed, the EU-funded experts and the Ministry will develop an action plan: this will be implemented as the third part of the project, which will run until April 2010.
Benefits of the ID&R system
Systematic animal identification and registration makes an essential contribution to the safety of the food chain and therefore to public health as a whole. It also plays an important role in ensuring the requisite quality standards for the export of animals, meat and animal products, and therefore to the economy of a country.
The system uses bar-coded ear-tags, with an individual number for each animal. These allow access for any user to that animal’s health record which is maintained in a central database. The system can provide information for a range of related applications: breeding, subsidy payments, and veterinary procedures dealing with the treatment, prevention and epidemiology of animal diseases. The history of livestock and their movements can be traced, and this means that animal products can also be traced right back to their place of production. This improves animal health, food quality and safety and, therefore, consumer protection.
The ID&R system, based on legislation in line with EU standards, helps to produce healthy, high quality products “from farm to fork ”. As a beef exporter to the EU, Serbia needs to ensure its position on the EU market. Compliance with EU food safety standards in beef production makes possible export of lamb and other meat products. A market of 500 million EU consumers awaits the arrival of quality Serbian meat and dairy products.