The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is launching a new tool to help staff at meat processing plants recognise and respond to an incursion of foot and mouth disease in stock, as part of its preparedness for risk organisms.
MAF’s Verification Programmes manager Di Carter says New Zealand has never had foot and mouth disease (FMD), and because of this excellent record, the country’s more than 24,000 meat processing premises employees have never seen symptoms in stock.
FMD is a highly contagious viral disease which affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, deer, llamas and alpacas.
MAF wants to make sure meat processing premises staff know what to look out for so they can respond appropriately if symptoms are found.
So the Ministry is distributing an 11-minute DVD and a poster describing the symptoms and also what meat workers should do if they suspect an animal has FMD. She says the material is being distributed by MAF Verification staff.
MAF is asking more than 300 facility operators to show the footage to their staff as part of their induction or training programme.
The supporting poster, which clearly shows FMD symptoms in a range of stock, is ideal for display in an area such as a smoko or common room where it can be seen by staff on a daily basis.
“The sooner suspicious symptoms are reported, the better it will be from New Zealand’s point of view,” says Di.
“We want to get the message across to all meat processing staff that what they do matters. Their actions in quickly reporting their suspicions to the appropriate person will make a huge difference in containing any possible spread of the disease.”
Di says MAF has also worked with New Zealand meat processing plant operators to ensure they have robust processes in place to prevent spread if an animal infected with FMD arrived at their premises.
All export animal product operators, excluding poultry, egg, seafood and bee products, are required to have a Risk Organism Response Plan (RORP) on-site and available to key staff.
About foot and mouth disease (FMD)
Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly contagious, viral disease which affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, llamas and deer. There is no cure.
Clinical signs of the disease vary between species, but blisters on the nose, mouth and feet are consistent. Animals stop eating, become depressed and lame and salivate a lot.
No more exports
If FMD reached New Zealand, virtually all exports of meat, animal by-products and dairy products would stop. They would not resume until at least three months after the slaughter of the last infected animal. The country’s trade reputation would be damaged, and it is estimated an outbreak would cause the loss of around 20,000 jobs and $10 billion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over a two-year period.
FMD can be spread by saliva, mucous, milk, faeces and can be carried on wool, hair, grass, footwear, clothing, livestock equipment and vehicle tyres. It can also spread quickly over long distances by wind.