The importance of animal welfare in food safety

When it comes to the safety of meat (and food in general), one often refers to a series of aspects, complex and integrated with each other, which may have an impact on people’s health.

A first point to clarify is the fundamental difference between the effects of the contamination of food on people’s health that can be certain or assumed. The precautionary measures taken in relation to the alleged risks are sometimes misinterpreted as management of cases of real danger, creating unjustified alarmism.

A second element is the use of drugs on farms which have to be divided among those prohibited and those regulated by national and international protocols, more or less severe. This observation is useful to eliminate some false stereotypes, such as those relating systematic use of hormones in livestock, banned throughout Europe.

The use of antibiotics in animal husbandry falls under the practices subject to very strict rules and controlled by the Health Authorities: these substances can in fact be used only for animal care through medical treatments prescribed by veterinarians. Their use should be limited in time and in no instance can the meat of animals treated be placed under any circumstances for consumption without having respected the “suspension period”, which guarantees the absence of residues in meat.

The quality and food safety, in Italy as well as throughout the European Union, are not only an EU regulatory stronghold, but the real fundamental element of the Community consumer protection policy.

The European Employment Strategy provides for the prevention of any risk to food safety throughout the production chain and is based on the so-called “One Health”: an integrated approach which considers as essential the link between animal health, the health of products derived from them and human health, to guarantee the latter a high level of quality of life while protecting the health and welfare of animals.

The effectiveness of controls is further enhanced by traceability, which allows the tracing and following of a food from the consumer to the primary agricultural production. The Italian health care system is one of the most structured worldwide, recognised in Europe as a example of excellence thanks to the approximately 4,500 official veterinaries involved in numerous tests and analysis in the field of safety and meat quality.

The issue of security is closely linked to animal welfare. Maintaining a state of good physical and mental health in animals is a prerequisite to ensure their sustainable livelihoods, but it is also a crucial element in ensuring the safety and the quality of foods derived from them.

The evolution of public awareness has meant that since the 80s this issue has been widely covered by EU and national legislation, comprehensively monitored by the legislation that lays down the minimum wellbeing conditions to be met, and in many cases a violation of these rules is considered in Italy a criminal offense.

The Sustainable Meat Project

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.