Food safety

Zoonoses and Food Safety

WHO/J. Murcott

Zoonotic diseases are a group of infectious diseases that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans. The greatest risk for zoonotic disease transmission occurs at the human-animal interface through direct or indirect human exposure to animals, their products and/or their environments. More than 60% of the newly identified infectious agents that have affected people over the past few decades have been caused by pathogens originating from animals or animal products. Seventy percent of these zoonotic infections originate from wildlife.

In addition, a number of well known and preventable zoonoses continue to occur in many countries, especially in the developing world where they mostly affect the poorest segment of human society; some are transmissible to humans through food (brucellosis, tuberculosis), through bites from infected mammals (rabies) and insects (Rift Valley Fever) or via environmental contamination (echinococcosis/hydatidosis).

The emergence of zoonotic disease is complex and multifactorial, driven by factors which include evolving ecology, microbial adaptation, human demographics and behaviour, international travel and trade, agricultural practices, technology and industry. Addressing zoonotic risk requires multisectoral cooperation and strong partnerships with strong linkages between human and animal detection and response systems.