Sécurité sanitaire et qualité des aliments

Control of SARS-CoV-2 during ritual animal slaughter


There is yet no evidence that livestock or poultry can become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Thus, the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from sheep or other livestock to humans is not expected. Likewise, food has not been reported route of transmission of the disease. Nevertheless, care should be taken to follow appropriate slaughter, processing, storage and food preparation practices to ensure food safety and quality, animal welfare and worker safety.

Notably, the use of facial covering and physical distancing among individuals during the slaughter or sacrifice of sheep, and during the steps preparing them to be consumed, will reduce the person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2, explains Jeffrey LeJeune, FAO Food Safety and Quality Officer, at the start of Eid-al-Adha, an Islamic holiday called ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’ or ‘Festival of the Sacrifice’.

Large slaughter facilities in Europe and North America have experienced COVID-19 transmission, in particular where employees work in close proximity.

Hygiene and sanitation

Personal and slaughter hygiene, as well as environmental sanitation, are essential to limit disease transmission associated with animal handling and slaughter. Following basic principles of food hygiene reduces the likelihood of disease transmission and allow for a safe and healthy holiday celebration.

“The past tells us that this a time for increased caution to protect against foodborne and other diseases,” said LeJeune, referring to human cases of Crimea-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever, Rift Valley Fever and orf, which have been associated with the slaughter of sheep around the time of Eid-al-Adha, according to multiple sources of scientific research. An increase of almost 20 percent in diarrhoeal disease among Muslim children in a number of developing countries following this festival has been attributed to food safety lapses in slaughter facilities that have exceeded capacity as well as the slaughter of sheep at home.

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Read about FAO’s work on COVID-19: http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/en/

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