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American Veterinary Medical Association: Weaving a Web for Food Safety
Date:2/18/2009

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Feb. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Americans love their meat. Whether it's rib eyes, pork chops or chicken breasts, the demand for protein is so great in this country that more than 85 billion pounds of meat and poultry are processed here each year.

And we're not alone. About a quarter of U.S. beef and pork is exported to feed hungry mouths around the world. While China is now the world's largest consumer of meat, in Mexico, meat consumption has increased by 50 percent since 1990.

So who's helping keep all this food safe? It may surprise many people that veterinarians are at or near the top of the list. But are there enough veterinarians to do the job? According to numerous studies, the answer is "no."

As part of its effort to help address this shortage of food supply veterinarians, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently unveiled a revamped Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Web page.

The new page, which can be found at http://www.avma.org/fsvm/default.asp, is loaded with information about careers in food supply veterinary medicine, why it's such a critical field and which states are being hit harder than others by the shortage.

"When we launched this site back in 2007, we were in the early stages of getting the word out that this is an impending crisis," said AVMA Chief Executive Officer W. Ron DeHaven, DVM. "Since then, the public's interest in the shortage has mushroomed. By calling attention to the situation, I believe we have really touched a nerve."

DeHaven said the AVMA's decision to update and enhance the Web page is partially a result of this growing concern.

"The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for veterinarians will increase by 35 percent in the next several years, much faster than the average for all occupations," DeHaven said. "A recent study commissioned by the AVMA indicates that the demand for veterinarians in food supply veterinary medicine will increase about 13 percent over that same period, while the supply will fall short of what is needed by about 4 percent or 5 percent annually."

The number of veterinary school graduates entering food supply medicine remains stagnant, and this lack of growth, DeHaven says, has all the makings of a crisis.

"Few jobs are more important when it comes to food safety than that of the veterinarian," DeHaven said. "They are not only checking the well-being of food animals and maintaining healthy herds and flocks, veterinarians are also first responders on the front lines of disease prevention and outbreak. Their involvement in food safety plays a vital role in public health and national security. Our responsibility as veterinarians is to make sure we cultivate and mentor more veterinarians to fill these roles."

The new, user-friendly AVMA Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Web page is a clearinghouse of information, containing everything from career videos, to new studies detailing the shortage, and examples of what veterinary schools and states are doing to attract more students to food supply veterinary medicine.

"There's no doubt that veterinary educators, state officials and associations like ours are working hard to get more students into the food supply veterinary field," DeHaven said. "This Web site reaches out and spreads the message that there are few things as important to our society as a safe food supply."

The AVMA and its more than 78,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of activities dedicated to advancing the science and art of animal, human and public health. Visit the AVMA Web site at www.avma.org for more information.


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SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association
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