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Capacity building for surveillance and control of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and other zoonotic diseases

Ulrich Kihm[3], Elizabeth Mumford[4], Andrew Speedy[5]

Over the past decade, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has emerged as a disease with effects on animal health, public heath, and trade. Many countries concerned about BSE need help in assessing and managing their BSE risk. The project utilizes Swiss expertise and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) infrastructure to assist the governments of selected partner countries in building capacity, establishing preventive measures, and analysing risks for BSE. The project aims to improve or build technical capacity along the entire food production chain (including governmental and private veterinary services, diagnostic laboratories, and the livestock, animal-feed, and meat industries) in partner countries so that all components required for an effective and sustainable BSE control programme are available. The ultimate goal of the project is that the partner countries either are able to prove themselves to be BSE-free, or are able to decrease their BSE risk to an acceptable level. Although the focus of this project is to lessen the negative impacts of BSE on public health, animal health, and trade in the partner countries, the capacity developed will promote implementation of similar control programmes for other emerging zoonotic food-borne pathogens.

The specific objectives for the project in each partner country are:

Initially, the strengths and needs of each partner country are assessed so that the implementation of the project can be focused according to the specific needs of the country. Then, a comprehensive programme of courses to "train the trainers" is offered to qualified individuals working in the relevant veterinary and food industries in the partner countries. Courses are given by experts on BSE and other related topics from throughout the world. Course topics include diagnostic techniques, epidemiology, surveillance and risk assessment, risk management in the meat industry, and risk management in the feed industry. The curricula focus on improving overall understanding of BSE epidemiology and relevant risk factors, and on building specific practical knowledge and skills for developing and implementing appropriate BSE risk management measures.

The same training in the native language is then offered to a broader range of participants in the partner countries. These in-country courses are organized through the national veterinary office by the previously trained individuals, with support, technical assistance, and materials (translated into the native language) from the project. At least one expert trainer assists in presenting these courses, and FAO provides infrastructure support in the countries.

To improve sustainability, the project strongly promotes the application in the partner countries of technical knowledge gained through training, and contact and follow-up is ongoing. Technical support and assistance in the development and implementation of a national BSE control programme is given. Information campaigns and public awareness programmes on BSE issues, including animal feed and food safety, are developed. These programmes target farmers, private veterinarians, government workers, laboratory personnel, consumers and the livestock, animal-feed and meat industries, in the partner countries. Ultimately, the countries are supported in the preparation and submission of a comprehensive national BSE risk assessment to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), as a step in to establishing their BSE status within the international community.

Once a national BSE programme is effectively implemented in each partner country, both small and large producers as well as the livestock and meat industries will benefit from a decrease in the deleterious effects of having BSE in their country, including improved animal health, better product marketability, and enhanced international and regional trade opportunities. All citizens of that country will benefit from a safer food supply. As well, given global movements and trade in cattle and bovine products, every country that successfully controls the further distribution of BSE contributes to reducing risk for BSE in the animal and human populations, and thereby contributes to improved animal and public health worldwide.

See Figure 1.

Project Organisation

[3] Safe Food Solutions Inc. (SAFOSO), Bern, Switzerland,
[4] Safe Food Solutions Inc. (SAFOSO), Bern, Switzerland,
[5] Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy

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