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Food Safety in Free-Range and Organic Livestock Systems: Risk Management and Responsibility

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Abstract:

Animal production systems that offer outdoor access to the animals have become increasingly popular in the Western world due to the growing general discontent of consumers with conventional bioindustrial farming practices. These open production systems offer improved animal welfare but may create new problems for animal health, resulting in increased food safety risks from bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections or environmental contaminants. Examples of these new problems include increased Toxoplasma gondii infections in pigs and high dioxin levels in eggs from free-range hens. In this review, the relation between positive and negative points of free-range and organic livestock production systems is discussed with reference to production in The Netherlands. We investigated how proponents of more animal welfare friendly systems deal with potential negative issues in public and whether any risk communication is used. Generally, we found that the existence of a dilemma is disputed or avoided in communication with the consumer. This avoidance could be detrimental for public trust in alternative animal production systems, should problems occur. To prevent future problems, it will be necessary to communicate about the relevant types and sources of the food safety risks to the consumers. The responsibility for protecting food safety should be properly divided among the various parties involved: producers, processors, governments, nongovernmental organizations, and consumers.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Animal Sciences Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands; Eye Research Institute Maastricht, Department of Ophthalmology, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 5800, 6202 AZ, Maastricht, The Netherlands. aize.kijlstra@wur.nl 2: Plant Research International, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 616, 6700 AP Wageningen, The Netherlands 3: Animal Sciences Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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