Reducing risk of zoonoses in food production: WHO lays down guidelines

There is, however, no evidence that consumption of food is implicated in the transmission of the COVID-19, the WHO guidlines underscored

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 13 April 2021
WHO lays down guidelines to reduce risk of zoonoses in food production. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health and the United Nations Environment Programme have laid down fresh guidelines for governments to reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic pathogens to humans in food production and marketing chains.

These include suspension of trade in live caught wild animals of mammalian species for food or breeding, as well as a shut down of food markets that sell them. It also urged governments to bolster regulations to improve standards of hygiene and sanitation in traditional food markets.

A zoonosis is an infectious disease that jumps from a non-human animal to humans. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic. They can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water and the environment. 

The call for action comes as the world grapples with a resurgence of the novel coronavirus disease (COVD-19) cases; although there is no evidence that consumption of food is implicated in the transmission of the pandemic, the WHO guidelines underscored.

There is, however, a risk of exposure to the mucus, saliva, urine and other bodily fluids of the infected animals. There is also the risk of becoming infected in areas where animals are housed or from contact with objects as well as surfaces that have been contaminated with novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Other guidelines include:

  • Strengthening the regulatory basis for improving standards of hygiene and sanitation in traditional food markets to reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases. Additional measures for crowd control and physical distancing, hand washing and sanitising stations should be introduced in market settings.
  • Conducting risk assessments to provide the evidence base for developing regulations to control the risks of transmission of zoonotic microorganisms from farmed wild animals and caught wild animals that are intended to be placed on the market for human consumption.
  • Ensuring that food inspectors are adequately trained to ensure that businesses comply with regulations to protect consumers’ health and are held accountable.
  • Strengthening animal health surveillance systems for zoonotic pathogens to include both domestic and wild animals. This will provide an early warning for pathogen emergence and help expedite development of control measures. 
  • Developing and implementing food safety information campaigns for market traders, stall holders, consumers and the wide general public. These campaigns should communicate the principles of food safety and the risks of transmission of zoonotic pathogens at the human-animal interface and the risks associated with the consumption and trade of wildlife.

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