“The key question for emergency managers has changed from ‘If FMD breaks in the U.S.’ to ‘When it breaks, how can we minimize the damage?’” says consultant Richard Horwitz.
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Secure Milk Supply Plan spearheads disease preparedness
It’s arguably the U.S. dairy industry’s worst shared nightmare: an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
This potential horror show involves three possible scenarios: your farm is in a movement control area and you cannot ship milk for weeks on end; you’re prevented from shipping milk for three days while the extent of the disease is assessed; or you’re free to ship your milk at present, but that could turn on a dime if the disease spreads to your area.
Regardless of which situation applies to you during an FMD outbreak, the big question you will face is: What do you do, starting now?
"The answer lies in having a well-developed response plan in place before FMD hits," says Geoff Benson, agricultural economist emeritus with North Carolina State University. "The survival of a large piece of the U.S. dairy industry hinges on this. Once FMD is here, it will be too late to develop plans for permitting milk to move, because disease control measures will take priority."
Keenly aware of the animal quarantine and milk movement issues that FMD would create, stakeholders have initiated the Secure Milk Supply (SMS) Plan, a U.S. dairy industry effort to ensure continuity of business in the event of an FMD outbreak.
Since 2009, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has provided funds to the University of California (UC), Davis; Iowa State University’s Center for Food Security and Public Health; and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety to facilitate FMD preparedness throughout the country. Additional SMS partners include USDA’s National Center for Animal Health Emergency Management, its Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health and state animal health officials.
Launched in coordination with the existing USDA–APHIS National FMD Response Plan, the SMS Plan embraces several key goals:
- Detect, control and contain FMD as quickly as possible.
- Eradicate FMD using strategies that stabilize animal agriculture, the food supply and the economy.
- Provide science- and risk-based approaches and systems that facilitate continuity of business for noninfected animals and noncontaminated animal products, including milk and milk products.
"Our initial steps are to develop agreed upon processes and procedures to pick up, transport and pasteurize raw milk from uninfected farms in an FMD control area," says Jon Zack, director of preparedness and incident coordination for APHIS Veterinary Services’ Emergency Management and Diagnostics unit.
"In cooperation with states, industry and academic institutions, Veterinary Services is conducting a proactive risk assessment for the transport of raw milk from the dairy farm to the processing plant that considers existing production practices with subsequent evaluation of proposed biosecurity mitigation procedures," Zack elaborates. "We are also developing agreed upon decision support guidance and tools to facilitate timely permitting and movement of raw milk from dairy farms in an FMD control area."
APHIS is encouraging states and the dairy industry to develop FMD biosecurity programs that will work best for them.
"Our mission is to get information to producers now so they know how to be best prepared to minimize the effects of FMD," says Pam Hullinger, a veterinarian with UC Davis. "We want to maintain business continuity for all dairy producers, haulers and processors. Our desired outcome is mutually acceptable and understood response approaches that allow disease control without destroying the dairy industry."
Ultimately, SMS will become an annex to the APHIS Foreign Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Plan (FAD PReP), outlined in Foot-and-Mouth Disease Response Plan: The Red Book.
"The SMS Plan provides more detailed guidance on how raw milk can be moved safely to processing than FAD PReP currently does," Hullinger says.
There hasn’t been an FMD outbreak in the U.S. since 1929. However, because FMD is present throughout two-thirds of the world and endemic in parts of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America, there is significant potential risk to the U.S. The 2001 FMD outbreak in the UK cost more than $10 billion.
- June/July 2012