The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) has released its report The Direct Relationship between Animal Health and Food Safety Outcomes.

The report was put together by a team of experts led by Scott Hurd, DVM, PhD, Iowa State University.

The commentary looks at the pressures to change livestock rearing methods, evidence to support the direct public health impact on human illness days, and food safety and inspection service regulations.

One section of the paper discusses impacts on animal health. Factors known to impact animal health include nutrition, animal management and animal care.

Nutrition: The paper says that the health of an animal is a direct function of its nutritional status, and precision nutrition for food-producing animals provides for optimum digestion, immune and endocrine function, reproduction and growth.

The attention to animal nutrition is evident in the numerous companies conducting high-level research with nutritionists to develop and refine vitamins, minerals, complete diets and plant genetics to produce very specific nutrients for optimum growth of food-producing animals.

Animal management: Animal husbandry has evolved over the decades to provide animals with optimum care as far as housing, biosecurity, hygiene and animal health – while still involving the human factor. The CAST paper says that these practices may also inherently lower the prevalence of foodborne pathogens.

Housing systems continue to evolve, such as in the European Union which has moved to less restrictive housing systems for food-producing animals. The CAST paper acknowledges that what is happening there will no doubt influence husbandry practice in the U.S. However, less restrictive systems in themselves are not the answer.

The CAST paper states that poorly managed, less restrictive systems can have dramatic impact on animal health, and these systems must also prove sustainable.

Animal care:  Decades of vaccination have proven to reduce or prevent certain illnesses in food-producing animals, and new vaccines may also prove useful in the prevention of specific foodborne pathogens.

Antibiotics are also used in food animals for the treatment and prevention of disease. The CAST paper says there are concerns about antibiotic resistance in bacteria that could affect the efficacy of antibiotics in the treatment of human infections, however, it adds that concern about antibiotic resistance is not equivalent to actual risk.

You can download the free CAST commentary here.

CAST is also offering the full Spanish text of this commentary free and online here.