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The animal health barometer

Measuring animal health



The food safety barometer has been introduced for the first time at the occasion of an international symposium "Measuring Food Safety and comparing self checking systems"organized by the Belgian Food Safety Agency in Brussels on November 17th, 2010.
The animal health barometer and the plant health barometer (phytosanitary situation) were published for the first time in the annual report 2011 (FR) of the FASFC en were based on the advices 09-2011 and 10-2011 of the Scientific Committee respectively.

What is an animal health barometer ?

The animal health barometer is an instrument, developed by the Scientific Committee of the Belgian Food Safety Agency, allowing to provide on a yearly basis a general image of the animal health in Belgium and this compared to the situation of a previous year. It is a unique measuring instrument to determine and to monitor the global animal health in Belgium and it is a scoop for Europe.

What does the animal health barometer measure ?

The animal health barometer measures the evolution of the yearly global animal health state of production animals in Belgium and this mainly based on the results of the control activities of the FASFC. A specific characteristic of the animal health barometer (compared with the food safety barometer and the plant health barometer) is that some of the data originated from sources external to the FASFC: MelkControleCentrum Vlaanderen, Comité du lait, Rendac.

What are the components of the animal health barometer ?

The animal health barometer consists of a set of 13 animal health indicators comprehending the entire animal production chain: from supplier to consumer. Controls of animal health (mortality, abortions, number of somatic cells in milk, animal diseases), controls of animal products (slaughterhouse control, number of somatic cells in milk) as well as process controls (inspections and audits) are part of the set. The preventive approach (self control, mandatory notification, traceability) is also taken into account in the barometer.

Does each animal health indicator have an equal impact on the global value of the barometer ?

The indicators have being weighed by different stakeholders and experts in the food chain. They evaluated the relative importance of individual indicators in the barometer. Indicators with regard to the duty to mandatory report notifiable animal diseases and with regard to inspections of infrastructure, facilities and hygiene were relatively high scored. On the other hand, indicators with regard to mortality of slaughter pigs, small ruminants and veal calves and indicators with regard to observations in slaughterhouses received a low score.

Can the barometer give an indication about the level of animal health in Belgium ?

From the visual representation of the barometer it cannot immediately be read at what level the state of animal health is in Belgium. However, the evolution of the animal health barometer compared to a previous year can be determined. Nevertheless, the underlying results give an indication that a significant number of indicators reach very high levels of conformity (> 95% conformity). This signifies that animal health in Belgium is at a high level.

Why does the barometer only show results from 2007 onward ?

It appeared to be very difficult to retrieve reliable historical data for all animal health indicators. The planned and risk-based control of the food chain and the systematic data collection and reporting is an activity which has only been introduced by the Agency during the last years. Going further back in time gives only data on a too small number of indicators.

Why is the result of the barometer expressed as a comparison of the state of a previous year ?

Animal health in the framework of this barometer means the global health of the production animal population (e.g. mortality, mandatory notifiable diseases,…) and the safety of animal products (presence of hazards). It is difficult to express the height of this global animal health and safety of animal products in absolute terms. This depends among other things upon the standards or action limits used by the policy managers. These standards may evolve in time. Hence, a comparison with a previous year was chosen for the presentation of the barometer.

Where can more information on the development of the barometer be found ?

In Advice 28-2010 of the Scientific Committee the concept of the development of a barometer of the safety of the food chain is explained.

In Advice 09-2011 of the Scientific Committee the development of the animal health barometer is explained.

In Advice 10-2011 of the Scientific Committee the development of the plant health barometer (phytosanitary situation) is explained.

In Advice 11-2012 of the Scientific Committee the weight factors of the indicators used in the food safety, animal health and plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometers are described.

Measuring the safety of the food chain in Belgium: development of a barometer : publication of Baert K., Van Huffel X., Wilmart O., Jacxsens L., Berkvens D., Diricks H., Huyghebaert A., Uyttendaele M., Food Research International, May 2011, 44:4, 940-950.

Is it possible to measure other safety aspects in the food chain ?

Besides the animal health barometer, a plant health barometer (phytosanitary situation) and a food safety barometer were developed.

Our mission is to preserve the safety and the quality of our food in order to protect humans, animals and plants.

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