The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently published a report that explores the contribution of foods sourced from terrestrial animals on human health, including relevant food safety aspects.

The report specifically pertains to terrestrial animal-sourced food (TASF), such as livestock, and was compiled in a response to a request from FAO’s Committee on Agriculture “to produce a comprehensive, science and evidence-based global assessment of the contribution of livestock to food security, sustainable food systems, nutrition, and healthy diets.” The assessment follows an agrifood systems approach and applies a One Health perspective to the economic, social, and environmental dimensions in reviewing how the livestock sector contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Regarding food safety and foodborne illnesses associated with TASF, a third of the global foodborne disease burden is associated with the consumption of contaminated TASFs, mainly linked to bacteria and diarrhea. Although evidence of foodborne illness hazards, health outcomes, and risk analysis methods is well-documented, knowledge of national burdens, such as incidence rates and severity, is lacking. The main transmission routes of foodborne illness along the TASF supply chain chain are crucial to improving national policies, yet are not well understood.

Additionally, the report lists factors that are contributing to the growing exposure to foodborne illness hazards. Specifically, the report highlights changing agricultural practices such as those related to the intensification of livestock production and input use, the lengthening and broadening of supply chains, and the increasing consumption of processed food. Moreover, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) presents its own challenges.

In general, the report stresses that food safety burdens must be alleviated by enhancing sanitation and controlling hazards at the interfaces between animals, humans, and the environment, through a One Health approach. Efforts to strengthen national food control systems are also key to ensuring food safety for better health outcomes.