Vet conference covers wide range of issues

Issues ranging from online clipping, food poisoning and ways to improve the image of the role of vets in public health were all discussed at the recent Vet-

erinary Public Health Association annual conference.

The event, held to coincide with the British Vet Association Congress, took place in Belfast on 29 September and saw a range of topics under discussion.

The latest research in online clipping were presented by ­Malcolm Taylor, senior scientific officer with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI).

He presented a report highlighting the work AFBI has been doing to demonstrate the effectiveness of hide clipping post-mortem on the processing line.

He highlighted the use of vacuum clippers and other best practice methods to reduce the risk of hide microflora transfer.

He told delegates the study concluded that online clipping can produce carcases which are equivalent, microbiologically speaking, with clean animals.

Campylobacter was also under discussion, with Bob Madden, project leader with AFBI, highlighting the issue as the biggest cause of food poisoning in the world, with more than 1,000 cases in Northern Ireland alone in 2000. However, he says this is just the tip of the iceberg: "For every one person reporting it, there are another six to eight people who suffer in silence."

In Northern Ireland, food poisoning contributes to around 86,000 days off a year, he said.

Robert Huey, head of Northern Ireland's Veterinary Public Health Policy Unit, gave a presentation on the delivery of meat hygiene controls in the province, while David Torrens, APHIS programme manager, gave a presentation on the Animals and Public Health Information System (APHIS), which records and shares information throughout the food supply chain.

Another hot topic for discussion was the image of public health within the veterinary industry. Micheál O'Mahony, from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, led a discussion on the role of vets in meat hygiene.

Highlighting the sector's ­image problem among trainee and young vets, he said the common attitude was: "I didn't go to vet college for five years to keep faeces out of food."

He said the sector needed to reposition itself as "experts in the whole health debate".