ROME, Feb 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A boom in demand
for meat in Asia threatens to fuel the spread of disease from
animals to humans, as boosting production often takes priority
over food safety, a United Nations agency warned.
Outbreaks of infectious diseases like the deadly SARS virus
and bird flu will become more common unless governments step up
regulation, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
"We will see more diseases and we will see more epidemics,
starting tomorrow," said FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer Juan
In East Asia, economic growth and higher incomes have
boosted appetites for meat. Consumption of meat products per
person has ballooned five-fold over the last half century, to 50
kg per person in 2015, the FAO says.
Livestock markets and farms, particularly of pigs and
chickens, have sprawled, making it hard for authorities to keep
up with vaccinations and inspections, Lubroth said.
Global population growth, which is set to further increase
demand, and selective breeding practices have heightened the
problem, creating the conditions for a "disease perfect storm".
"All these (livestock) animals are genetically very
similar... so if one is susceptible (to a disease) all of them
are," Lubroth told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases in recent
years have spread to humans from animals or animal products,
according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In an increasingly interconnected world it is easier for
them to cross borders, Lubroth said.
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged
in southern China in late 2002, spread rapidly from south China
to other cities and countries in 2003. Over 8,000 people were
infected and 775 died.
Since last year, authorities in Asia and Europe have been
dealing with different strains of bird flu, leading to mass
culling of poultry, and some human deaths in China.
Lubroth urged governments to put food safety higher up the
agenda and invest in prevention to avoid more epidemics.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros
Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)