Healthy and Safe Food

Keeping farm animals healthy

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Healthy livestock and poultry are a priority for farmers and veterinarians — and the goal is always to prevent illness from happening in the first place. A serious disease outbreak or health problem can make animals sick, and occasionally can cause livestock deaths to increase. In extreme cases, a disease can affect more than just one species of animal. That’s why farmers use many strategies and tools to ensure that their animals stay healthy, such as providing a good living environment, ensuring balanced nutrition for livestock, and working with veterinarians who support animal health management, and are responsible for prescribing animal health products, like medications and vaccines. It’s Health Canada’s job to evaluate the safety of livestock medications, vitamins, probiotics, essential oils and treatments, and to approve their use by farmers and veterinarians. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for ensuring the safety of animal vaccines and feed additives.

“One Health” — when animal and human health meet

Many of the same microbes that make animals sick can also infect humans. That’s why the World Health Organization and other organizations around the world have embraced the “One Health” approach, by which experts in animal, plant, and human health work together to prevent disease outbreaks and food safety problems. Approximately 60 per cent of emerging infectious diseases in people originally come from animals as zoonotic disease, so close collaboration between human and animal health practitioners is extremely important. Public health agencies and groups specializing in animal disease surveillance are always watching for and tracking new outbreaks. Canada has invested millions of dollars into disease research, prevention, and emergency preparedness, so that Canadians will have the safest food and healthiest livestock possible.

Livestock and poultry diseases of interest

Two livestock and poultry diseases that are currently capturing attention include:

1. Influenza

Commonly called the flu, influenza makes many Canadians sick every year. Birds and pigs can also get the flu (avian influenza has impacted millions of poultry in the Canadian outbreak that started in 2022) but you can’t catch this sickness from eating pork, eggs, chicken or turkey.

2. African Swine Fever

African Swine Fever is a devastating disease that affects pigs, but there is no human health or food safety risk, since it doesn’t infect humans. There is currently no cure or vaccine for this virus, which kills virtually all the animals that become infected. China has been suffering from a major outbreak since 2018, and the disease is spreading in Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. So far, it has never been found in North America, and since Canada is a major world producer of pork, the industry is working hard to keep the disease out.