In response to a statement by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week, the American Veterinary Medical Association has reaffirmed its call for a strong, national animal disease traceability program to help maintain and improve the health of U.S. livestock.
Vilsack announced that the USDA is creating a new strategy for animal disease traceability. This comes in reaction to a public comment period in which the program in place was widely criticized for being too stringent.
"The USDA is planning to create a new, national animal disease traceability system that is administered by the states and tribal nations,” says Ron DeHaven, DVM, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “If each state is allowed to develop and implement its own program, important questions arise concerning communication and coordination. Clearly, the USDA must create a system that allows for quick and accurate trace-back across state borders in an animal disease emergency, or there is no point in the new system,"
However, the AVMA is not ready to endorse the program until more details are available. "There are many unanswered questions that must be addressed as this new animal disease traceability program is being developed,” said DeHaven. “For that reason, the AVMA cannot consider endorsing this concept at this time."
The AVMA advocates creation of an animal disease traceability program that would allow veterinarians to trace diseased animals back to specific farms or herds in cases of disease outbreaks. This would help identify potentially infected animals, quickly address the disease, and minimize harm other food animals, food producers and the public.
"The government estimates that this new animal traceability program will take 18 months to two years to create and implement. We are concerned that, in fact, with a formal rule-making process in place, implementation will be delayed for up to three or four years, and, during that time, the U.S. will continue without an animal disease traceability program," says Larry R. Corry, DVM, president of the AVMA.
"Veterinarians are the foot soldiers in the war against livestock diseases, and it's a role that we take extremely seriously," explains Corry. "It's critical that federal regulations on this new traceability program include input from the AVMA and veterinarians."
For more information about livestock, food safety or any issues in veterinary medicine, visit the AVMA at www.avma.org.