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Public Health Issues


Although meat is generally perceived as a high value product which is a good source of iron and vitamins, globally there have been a number public health issues which have had adverse effects on the production, trade and consumption of meat.


The risk of animal zoonoses is perhaps the biggest cause of public concern with meat. Zoonoses are defined by the WHO as “Any disease or infection which is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to man". There are over 200 zoonoses known to man of which tuberculosis alone causes more deaths worldwide than any other infectious disease, with an estimated 1.6 million deaths in 2005.


Meat inspection is the principal method for ensuring the safety of meat. The purpose of meat inspection is to provide safe and wholesome meat for human consumption. The responsibility for achieving this objective lies primarily with the relevant public health authorities who are normally represented by veterinarians or meat inspectors at the abattoir. Common weaknesses in meat inspection include a lack of properly resourced, independent and a competent body of inspectors (veterinarians, meat inspectors) who are not fully legally and practically empowered to implement their objective judgement on the fitness of meat and animal parts for human consumption.


FAO has also produced guidelines and standards on meat inspection procedures and techniques for developing countries.  Capacity building in updated meat inspection has also been a key feature of FAO support to member countries. FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), is responding to the global threats of animal zoonoses through surveillance and research networks for early detection of animal diseases and better scientific cooperation between countries. FAO has also established an emergency crisis management center (CMC) that supports countries in responding to animal disease outbreaks.