AVMA says shutdown jeopardizes food safety

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2013- The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) became vocal about the federal government shutdown today when it asked Congress to find a compromise “so that our nation's federal employees who promote the health and welfare of animals, guard the country against disease outbreaks and ensure food safety can get back to work.”

Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA's chief executive officer, said Congress is “compromising the health and wellbeing of millions of animals.”

“Each day that the U.S. government is shutdown, we are faced with a dwindling supply of available vaccines to keep livestock healthy, a lack of inspections that protect animals from abuse, and a dearth of food safety inspections,” DeHaven said.

Lets Talk Food

Veterinary programs affected by the government shutdown include the closure of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB), which verifies the safety of animal vaccines before releasing them into the marketplace. Due to the CVB closure, AVMA said food-animal producers may not be able to vaccinate their flocks or herds, “which will endanger herd health, food safety and public health.”

However, the release of vaccines from CVB has been considered an essential service in previous government shutdowns. DeHaven noted this in an email he sent Thursday to USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden.

DeHaven emphasized that “it is critical for USDA to immediately reinstate the release of veterinary biologics for commercial sale” through the CVB.

CVB told stakeholders that they will not release batches of vaccines for distribution and will reevaluate the decision after 14 days. However, most companies keep just one or two weeks of inventory for major vaccines. Many of the large poultry and swine companies will be out of critical vaccine in a matter of days, DeHaven noted in the email.

He further emphasized that once they run out of vaccines, the companies could face the decision of whether to stop vaccinating their flocks and herds or to shut down production.

“The Department must make some very difficult choices during this current funding crisis, but lack of these vaccines in the short term will impact the health of our food animals and ultimately impact our nation's ability to produce a safe and affordable food supply,” DeHaven wrote in his email to Harden.

Leaders of the major poultry organizations, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation, also sent a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., today insisting that animal health vaccine release is an essential activity.

“Two weeks of stalled vaccine delivery will directly impact food safety, animal health and bio-security,” the poultry groups stated. “The animal health industry cannot wait that long.”

“We ask that appropriate funding be allocated immediately, so there are no interruptions at CVB,” the letter concluded.

Craig Wallace, North American CEO of Ceva Animal Health sent a similar letter to Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kans., on the day the shutdown began. 

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