Farm (production) to plate (consumption
Farm (production) to plate (consumption

Food safety: Preparing for the unexpected in the animal food value chain

Food undoubtedly is essential for sustenance and continuity of life, be it in humans, animals, plants or microorganisms.


Food can dictate our moods, bring people together or drift them apart, serve as medicine or the reason for an illness and can also influence our lifestyle. Based on this, the safety of food is and should be paramount to the estimated eight billion people existing in the world today.

Food safety hazards seep through and stretch across grass roots, national, regional and international levels, thus, standards from farm to fork are key.

Foodborne illnesses

Foodborne illnesses are caused by contamination of food and can result from several forms of environmental contamination, including pollution in water, soil or air, as well as unsafe food processing, improper handling and storage conditions.

Additionally, foodborne illness can occur from consuming foods or beverages contaminated with toxins (toxins from Clostridium botulinum), bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli), viruses (Norovirus, Hepatitis A virus), chemicals (pesticides, heavy metals) or parasites (Giardia).

Preventive measures for food-borne illnesses involve several key practices across various stages of food handling, from production to preparation and storage. Here are some essential preventive measures:

Veterinary services in food safety

The Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD) is the competent authority for animal health and public health by ensuring the prevention of zoonotic diseases (diseases transmitted between animals and humans) and food safety of animal food products.

When it comes to food safety, responsibilities of VSD include: Inspection and surveillance:

Veterinarians play a crucial role in inspecting animals and animal food products at entry points (land borders, airports and harbour), farms, food production facilities, slaughterhouses and processing plants.

They ensure compliance with hygiene standards, proper handling practices and disease control measures. Regular surveillance helps identify potential risks such as zoonotic diseases, chemical contaminants and microbial pathogens.

The National Food Safety Laboratory (ISO 17025:2017 & OIE accredited) of VSD provides laboratory services for export and import.

Risk assessment, management

Veterinary personnel assess risks associated with animal food production and animal food products, including feed quality, antimicrobial use, and environmental contamination. 
Risk assessments are done before the issues of movement permits, health certificates and permits during export and imports.

VSD collaborates with other stakeholders (such as farmers, regulators and researchers) to develop risk management strategies. These may involve adjusting production practices, implementing biosecurity measures and monitoring foodborne hazards.

Traceability, documentation

Accurate record-keeping is essential for traceability. Veterinary services ensure that animal health records, vaccination histories, and treatment protocols are well-documented. 

In the event of a food safety outbreak, traceability allows for the swift identification of affected products and their sources.

Emergency preparedness

Unexpected events, such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters, or chemical contamination, can disrupt food production. Veterinary services collaborate with emergency response teams to develop contingency plans.

These plans address rapid containment due to the movement of animal restrictions, risk communication and resource allocation during crises. VSD also receives notifications on animal disease outbreaks and food safety alerts from international bodies to strengthen monitoring at points of entry. 

Training, sensitisation

Veterinary Services Directorate with support from international bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) organises training workshops, seminars and sensitisation for farmers and other stakeholders in the animal food value chain, including consumers, to promote food safety.

In our interconnected world, ensuring food safety is paramount. The animal food value chain, from farm to fork, faces various challenges that demand proactive measures.

Remember, food safety isn’t just a regulatory requirement; it’s a shared responsibility.


Consumers must: 

▪ not buy/sell sick or dead animals; 
▪ get veterinary movement permits for the transportation of animals; 
▪ slaughter food animals at facilities under the supervision of veterinary services;  and 
▪ get veterinary health certificates and permits when importing and exporting animals/animal food products.
Let’s build a resilient and safe animal food value chain together!

By the National Food Safety Laboratory, Veterinary Services Directorate.

E-mail: [email protected]

Connect With Us : 0242202447 | 0551484843 | 0266361755 | 059 199 7513 |

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