Food safety begins in the farm, which is why animal health and welfare is a fundamental component of food safety. Safeguarding the health of animals and preventing animal diseases serves to protect public health, the animal production, food security and food supply, rural economies, and the environment.
EFSA’s vision in this field is “to optimise the health and well-being of domestic and wild animals”.
The concept of animal health covers animal diseases, as well as the interplay between animal welfare, human health, environment protection and food safety. EFSA’s scientific advice to risk managers addresses these closely interlinked fields and is based on extensive cooperation with national and international organisations and the latest scientific knowledge.
The main tasks and activities of EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare and its supporting unit are:
- Collaborating with experts and Member States to lead risk assessment in the fields of animal health and animal welfare through a transparent and science-based approach.
- Recommending better standards to ensure the welfare of animals.
- Promoting standardised data collection related to animal health and animal welfare.
- Developing and assessing tools for the effective prevention and control of animal diseases.
- Networking with European and international partners on monitoring and surveillance of animal diseases.
- Reporting on surveillance activities carried out within the EU.
African swine fever. In 2007 outbreaks of African swine fever occurred in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the European part of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. From there, the disease spread to the European Union and is still spreading. EFSA has been providing advice and supporting Member States in dealing with the disease for a number of years. More information here.
Avian influenza. EFSA, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the EU reference laboratory on avian influenza and authorities in affected Member States publish quarterly reports on the situation of avian influenza in Europe and at global level regarding both animal and human health. EFSA also analyses surveillance data collected by Member States on avian influenza in poultry and wild birds. The findings will be published in annual reports, starting in 2019. More information here.
Lumpy skin disease. This disease – which affects cattle and is spread by blood-feeding insects – is present in many African countries. In 2012, it spread from the Middle East to south-east Europe, affecting EU Member States (Greece and Bulgaria) and several other countries in the Balkans. EFSA has published regular updates on the status of the disease in south-eastern Europe. More information here.
Vector-borne diseases Based on data collected by the EU Member States, EFSA produces, in cooperation with European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), annual summary reports on vector-borne zoonoses in animals and food-borne outbreaks caused by these micro-organisms. EFSA has carried out many other activities as part of the EU’s attempts to control these diseases, many of which are considered to be emerging infectious diseases in the EU. More information here.
Data collection on animal diseases (SIGMA) The aim of the SIGMA project is to harmonise data models and revamp processes for data submission, validation, analysis and reporting. More information here.
EU legal framework
Regulation (EU) 2016/429 – the Animal Health Law – lays down rules for the prevention and control of animal diseases which are transmissible to animals or humans. The EU has specific legislation covering a number of animal diseases according to 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. More information on the different diseases is available here. EFSA has published scientific advice on the assessment of animal diseases according to the criteria for listing and categorisation laid down in the Animal Health Law.