Animal Health

Safeguarding the health of animals and preventing animal diseases serves to protect public health, the environment and the economy of a country.

The concept of animal health covers animal diseases, as well as the interplay between animal welfare, animal health, human health and food safety.

EFSA’s scientific advice to risk managers addresses these closely interlinked fields based on a wide range of cooperation with national and international organisations and the latest scientific knowledge.

Examples of recent work carried out by EFSA include the analysis of the on-going African swine fever, lumpy skin and avian influenza outbreaks, and the revision of information on the main vector-borne diseases. EFSA also publishes annual assessments of surveillance data on Echinococcus multilocularis, a tapeworm that causes a disease known as echinococcosis in wild and domestic carnivores.

The EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare has completed assessments of 29 animal diseases. This work will be used by the European Commission in the context of the Animal Health Law to strengthen the enforcement of health and safety standards across the agri-food chain.

EFSA scientists assess all aspects of health and welfare pertaining to animal production systems and practices that are applied in the EU, as well as conditions resulting from animals interacting with wildlife.

They provide scientific advice to decision makers and consumers on questions relating to animal health and welfare, primarily in food-producing animals.

An integral part of this work has been the development of technical guidance documents and methodological approaches to ensure that EFSA’s approaches to risk assessment related to animal health and welfare are transparent.

EFSA’s work on animal health may follow an outbreak in the EU or an ad hoc request by risk managers. In their risk assessments, EFSA experts assess:

  • the risk of introduction of diseases into the European Union;
  • how diseases spread, including the role of insects in their spread;
  • information on distribution, and possible control measures. 

In the event of outbreaks, EFSA experts support Member States in their data collection activities, for example by helping to standardise the way in which they collect data so that these are easier to compare.

The EU has legislation for a number of animal diseases depending on their potential social and economic impact.

This includes notification obligations, diagnostic methods, and measures to be applied in case of suspicion and confirmation of disease.

Animals – European Commission