UK food safety 'threatened by dwindling vet influence'
British food safety 'being threatened by dwindling vet influence'
Saturday, 13, Feb 2010 12:25
By Sarah Garrod.
Scientists have warned food safety in the UK is being threatened by the 'dwindling influence of vets', claiming there has been a significant shift away from treating farm animals.
Philip Lowe, from the Centre for Rural Economy at the University of Newcastle, has said the proportion of time vets in private practice spent treating animals used for food halved between 1998 and 2006 - due in part to the fact most vets run their own businesses, and pet owners have proved a more sustainable and lucrative source of income than farmers.
Professor Lowe argues in the journal Veterinary Record that due to this shift there has been a failure to make use of vets' considerable and wide ranging expertise.
"I would argue that it also diminishes the public standing of the whole profession. I certainly couldn't imagine the medical establishment in this country accepting a role that marginalised public health, even if the NHS did not exist," he said.
"More seriously for all of us, I believe that not involving vets in this important area also puts food safety in the UK at risk."
He said that in the past the veterinary arm of government traditionally provided leadership for the profession embodied by the chief veterinary officer and was underpinned by the proportion of vets' income derived from public funding.
However, Professor Lowe claims this is no longer the case and is further undermined by the percentage of vets employed by government having shrunk from 11 per cent to four per cent over the past 40 years.
"The profession needs to rethink its role and the direction in which it is travelling," the author concludes.