The food chain employs 12% of the British work force, accounts for 8% of our economy and involves us all as consumers. Food safety is regarded by consumers as a right and the new European Union (EU) food hygiene regulations firmly place responsibility for a risk-based approach to the control of foodborne zoonoses on farmers as well as other food chain stakeholders. One indicator of the success of Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare Strategy will be a reduction in the “incidence of zoonotic diseases in animals which might imperil public health” and this is echoed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which aims to reduce food-borne illness by 20% by 2006. The FSA further aims to reduce the prevalence of salmonella in pigs by 50% by 2010. Whilst the Government may wish to intervene to protect the health of the public, their strategic vision is to share these costs equitably with industry. Action must be founded upon evidence and one purpose of scientific research is to improve our knowledge and thus inform decision-making.
This proposal focuses upon one recognised food safety problem – salmonella infection in pigs, which is the target of the industry-lead Zoonoses Action Plan Salmonella Programme (ZAP). Our multi-disciplinary project encompasses the entire food chain, from farmer to consumer. We will address the epidemiology of salmonella infection in pigs through field-based studies and the use of sophisticated genetic typing methods. <P>
These results will inform the further development of our existing microbial risk assessment (MRA) that models the risk of human salmonellosis attributable to pig meat. We will estimate the efficacy and cost of interventions at different stages through the food chain and integrate these results with our MRA. Benefits from the control of salmonella infection in pigs will be measured by considering the economic impact of human cases. <P>
We will also conduct a stakeholder analysis to enable us to understand the views of people at every level – farmers, private vets, abattoir and food industry professionals – regarding the feasibility of proposed approaches to Salmonella control, and subsequent acceptance by consumers. The stakeholder analysis will identify potential factors, which may lead to success or failure of the strategy through the food chain from “farm to fork”.<P>
Stakeholders throughout the food chain and policy-makers within Defra and the FSA will value the knowledge that we create.