Alan Mathew, head of Purdue University's Department of Animal Sciences, was on a team of experts that examined the relationship between the health of agricultural animals and consumers' increasing demand for safe food. Mathew co-wrote "Healthy Animals Make Confident Consumers" with five other members of a task force organized by the nonprofit Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). "This was our attempt to review the literature regarding animal health and food safety and determine what research needs to be conducted to determine the connection between the care and health of food animals and food safety," Mathew said.

The publication, "Healthy Animals Make Confident Consumers," was presented May 7 to three Washington, D.C., audiences by task force chair Dr. Scott Hurd, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Iowa State University and former deputy undersecretary for food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These D.C. audiences included House staffers, Senate staffers (including USDA members), and International Food Information Council staffers, plus representatives from other agricultural organizations and a nationwide telephone audience.

The report cites challenges agriculture faces in meeting some consumer demands while maintaining animal health and food safety.

Mathew noted that among the report topics is consideration of outdoor versus indoor livestock production and the potential effects on animal health and food safety.


Mathew said some studies, for example, have shown differences in the levels of the bacteria Campylobacter and Salmonella, which cause foodborne illnesses in people, between outdoor and indoor production.

At the same time, the report notes, consumers want "virtually risk-free food" and expect farmers and processors to provide it.

The authors offer several recommendations for research in animal health and food safety.

Other report co-authors are:

  • Barbara Masters, a veterinarian and senior policy adviser with Olsson Frank Weeda law firm in Washington, D.C.
  • Steve Oliver, a professor of animal science at the University of Tennessee
  • Rod Preston, animal science professor emeritus at Texas Tech University
  • Randall S. Singer, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota

The peer-reviewed report is available online. PD

—From Purdue University news release