Animal disease prevention safeguards public health

Ensuring safe food products for consumers depends on clean and high-quality raw materials. The management of infectious animal diseases in primary production lays the foundation for product safety, since some infectious diseases may also be transmitted from animals to humans or from humans to animals. These diseases are known as zoonoses.

To promote public health, it is of primary importance to minimise animals’ need for medication. In Finland, the occurrence of infectious animal diseases and the need for the medical treatment of animals is low due to good preventive practices. This significantly reduces the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, which may also be transmitted to humans (e.g. MRSA, ESBL).

In Finland, Animal Welfare (ETT) provides guidance on preventing diseases that are not subject to statutory prevention requirements. Production animals are also not given preventive medication, nor are they fed muscle growth hormones.

Zoonoses such as salmonella epidemics, which cause significant public health risks even in western societies, are effectively eliminated at Finnish farms whenever they are detected. Around 80 per cent of all salmonella infections contracted by Finns come from foreign sources.

Other zoonoses which have been found in Finland are campylobacteriosis, listeriosis, yersiniosis and EHEC strains. However, the situation is excellent by international comparison: the occurrence of these diseases is very low in Finland.

No other serious zoonoses, such as bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis or rabies, have been found in Finnish animals. The cool, dry climate conditions in the north are not as favourable for pathogens as warm, moist conditions, so there is less disease pressure in Finland.

The most significant risk in the management of infectious diseases in Finland is the increase in farm size, which may lead to more contact between animals and thereby contribute to the spread of diseases. Procedures at farms are critically assessed, and guidelines are specified and revised according to need.