Control of Food-Borne parasites for food security

As livestock is a major source of food production, growth of food animals is hampered by diseases and ultimately livestock sector is disturbed. This is particularly important because livestock sector has many roles like income generation for small handlers, source of food, energy production in the form of biogas and dung, utilization of marginal lands, weed control, and fertilizer, etc. Food safety and security is not only necessary for better health of people but also justified in terms of economic benefits. According to an estimate, 14 billion USD was spent on loss of production and 152 billion USD on life care in USA due to food-borne pathogens. In middle-income countries, food-borne illness is the cause of 2.2 million deaths annually but unfortunately, the information related to foodborne hazards is scarce. Parasitic diseases of food products are important concern for the whole livestock worldwide not only due to their ill effects but also due to their great economic significance. It was suggested in a study that the cost of controlling foodborne pathogens was much smaller as compared to the improved health achieved by reducing these pathogens from meat. Parasitic diseases of food animals reduce the economic potential of humans by affecting their health because humans are important part of economic generation. Human economic development and well-being are directly related to livestock parasites which are a lesson to improve animal health at global level particularly for resource-poor farmers. Food safety has another economic benefit that food markets get greater potential and efficiency.

In middle-income countries, the main focus of improved food safety is dedicated on the requirement of market access which is particularly associated with exports and high-value products. Effective market penalties or rewards are necessary to improve the level of food safety and security, however, it is dependent upon the consumer’s ability to pay and their knowledge about the safe food products. At the same time, private certification can lead this towards potential fraud because they are usually not effective in the developing countries. Many factors are contributing towards the increased demand of secure food in developing countries and these include rising incomes, urbanization and better awareness about foods from developed countries. Supply chain coordination can be improved while having a partnership with the private sector because this partnership can lead towards higher food standards by adopting the practices acceptable for both the public and private sector. In most of the cases, consumers do not know about the presence of hazards in the food products and thus, are unable to demand the safe food from producers. Similarly, producers also have limited information about their products due to presence of natural hazards in the food. Ultimately, lack of information leads to the failure of safe food markets, which needs to be addressed for public awareness.

The initiatives of public-private coordination are important towards management of safe food by a defined path and where necessary, can be supported by the public sector. Most of the previous concern has remained to support the export market, however, much is needed to be done in the local markets to improve the food standards. Although globalization has changed our lifestyle conventional methods to prevent foodborne parasites are still applicable. Education of food producers, food handlers and consumers particularly related to avoiding cross-contamination, sufficient cooking and basic hygiene has an effect on the transmission of foodborne parasites, resulting in inferior quality of food. Developed countries have established a strong system of surveillance for foodborne pathogens which is a necessary part of their food safety system. In public health, surveillance data is used for planning, evaluation, and implementation of policies.

Different countries have different rules and regulations for import and export of meat products and for those animals, raised locally. In many underdeveloped countries, animal carcasses do not get proper inspection because it is either not enforced or required, meat inspectors are not well educated and animals are not slaughtered in abattoirs. Foodborne parasitology has a major shortcoming that diagnostic tools are not well established to identify, detect and recover parasites distributed in a wide range of food system. Macro and microscopic identification of parasites are still a routine diagnostic procedure for parasites that require highly trained and technical personnel. Definitive identification is still carried out by microscopy, however, modern diagnostic techniques can reduce identification time with an increased sensitivity and specificity of the method.

Food safety is an important issue for developing countries and in some cases for developed countries as well. Last two decades have seen a dramatic change in the demand for safe food due to increased consumer awareness that has helped to increase the standards in food markets. It is not possible for most of the developing countries to immediately shift their food safety and security standards like developed nations due to limited public demand and public capacity. Food security will be strengthened by implementing improved food safety standards for food insecure population in developing countries that will ultimately improve the livelihood and productivity. Livestock health programs are administered at individual or flock level where benefit is only limited to those who can afford. This practice should be designed in a way to start these programs at population level so that chronically malnourished animals of poor population may also get the benefit which represents the majority of livestock at global level. Furthermore, programs of parasite control should be designed similar to those started for human health. These programs will lead to sustainable results by management practices to use anthelmintic drugs and to control the development of resistance. Such kind of program will be an initiative for better health services for human and animal health that will be beneficial particularly for poor communities to raise their standard and ultimately a gateway for safe and secure food of animal origin.

International organizations for health and food still need to develop better control strategies for the most important parasites related to food safety. Training capacities combined with advanced diagnostic tools and international communication need to be globalized for medical and veterinary parasitology to overcome these threats.

This article is collectively authored by Dr. Muhammad Usman Naseer, Dr. Muhammad Imran, UAF.

Leave a Reply