Weekly Overview: New Year, Same Challenges?

GLOBAL - A new year has begun but the old challenges have not gone away, writes Jackie Linden. The US food safety agency has been criticised for its handling of an outbreak of foodborne disease apparently emanating from one poultry processing plant. In the EU, there will be greater responsibility for processing plant workers to ensure poultry are unconscious after stunning if new recommendations are accepted. And finally, the flu season has started in the northern hemisphere with all the elements needed for a new viral 'cocktail' to emerge and threaten people and domestic livestock.
calendar icon 2 January 2014
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A holistic long-term approach may be the key to introducing sustainability into the food and agriculture equation, according to a new report from Rabobank.

Fundamentally, it says, this would entail a shift in farmers' focus away from yield maximisation and towards input optimisation.

"Without a holistic approach towards feeding the world, the global agriculture industry's capacity to keep up with demand will be stretched at the expense of the environment," commented a Rabobank analyst.

According to the latest update from the United States, 416 people have been infected by Salmonella Heidelberg in a series of foodborne disease outbreaks there linked to one chicken processing company. There have been no deaths but 134 confirmed hospital admissions. Another new report has criticised the country's food safety organisation for its handling of the outbreaks.

Slaughterhouse staff in the European Union could be forced to carry out more checks of livestock to ensure the animals are not conscious after stunning, according to new scientific studies carried out for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

If the recommendations are ratified, processing plant workers who perform stunning, shackling, hoisting and/or bleeding will have to check all the animals and confirm that they are unconscious.

Three separate scientific opinions have been produced by the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel of EFSA for the European Commission to cover poultry, pigs and goats & sheep.

Finally, turning to news on avian flu, human cases have been reported over the last couple of weeks in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Having advised the OIE that there had been no new cases of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry since October, Viet Nam has reported an outbreak in a commercial duck flock in the Mekong Delta on 25 December. In China, highly pathogenic avian influenza of a 'new' sub-type - H5N2 - has hit a poultry farm in Hebei province.

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