Existing Food Safety systems could be adapted to reduce wildlife trade health risks
Adapting existing food safety protocols to identify hazards and manage disease risks associated with wildlife trade could be a practical approach to preventing future zoonotic spillover events, according to a comment piece published today in Lancet Planetary Health.
Led by Dr Duan Biggs from Griffith University’s Centre for Planetary Health and Food Security, and co-authored by members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Wildlife Health Specialist Group and TRAFFIC, the paper argues that rather than broad-based, untargeted bans on wildlife trade, a potential solution to preventing the next pandemic could be the adaptation of existing food health safety systems to legal wild animal supply chains.
The wildlife trade is suspected of having played a role in the appearance and spread of new potentially dangerous diseases, including COVID-19. In response, many organisations have called for a global ban of the trade and consumption of wild animals by humans.”
Dr Duan Biggs, Griffith University’s Centre for Planetary Health and Food SecurityHowever, blanket bans are often impractical and can have unintended consequences for livelihoods dependent on wildlife trade for food, health and economic security.
“Wildlife trade bans in response to previous disease outbreaks like Ebola have been short-lived and difficult to sustain; in many ways, disease risk increases as trade is forced underground,” Dr Biggs said. “Targeted bans have their place and value, but managing for wildlife trade disease risk is likely extremely context-specific and alternative approaches also need to be sought.”
A suggested alternative could be adapting existing food safety systems, such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system (HACCP), implemented internationally through national food safety frameworks. For decades, these methodologies have been used to ensure the safe sale of food in supermarkets and restaurants but have had minimal application in the legal wildlife trade.
A Critical Control Points approach, widely used in food systems for livestock animals, could be expanded to the legal wildlife trade. These systems identify points in supply chains where risks are high, and recommend specific actions, checks, and processes to manage risk."
Dr Richard Kock of the Royal Veterinary College London and Co-Chair of the IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group
HACCP systems are already applied to some wild animal supply chains, such as with the kangaroo trade. “The potential to adapt these methods to other wild animal species in trade needs to be explored,” said co-author James Compton, TRAFFIC’s lead on the USAID Wildlife TRAPS project.
Such an approach could not only help identify, assess, and reduce disease risks but ideally, work in tandem with existing wildlife trade regulations to ensure legality and sustainability.”
James Compton, TRAFFIC’s lead on the USAID Wildlife TRAPS project
“It makes sense to see how the Critical Control Points system, adopted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), can be widely adapted to the wildlife trade,” added Dr Biggs.
“There is no need to reinvent the wheel – or think bans are the only option.”
The USAID Wildlife TRAPS project, implemented by TRAFFIC in partnership with IUCN, is exploring strengthening and adaptation of existing systems-based approaches to supply chain management and traceability to help mitigate potential zoonotic disease risks at various wildlife trade interfaces. TRAFFIC works with an array of global, regional and national partners to provide wildlife trade expertise into policy and regulatory developments, including to support OneHealth approaches towards preventing future pandemics. Recognising that shifts in human behaviour are fundamental to disease risk mitigation, TRAFFIC is developing social and behaviour change messaging to target wildlife consumers and other key actors along supply chains from source to end-use.
About Wildlife TRAPS
The Wildlife TRAPS Project, implemented by TRAFFIC and IUCN with funding support from USAID, is helping to forge cross-sectoral partnerships with government and experts in inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, academia, and the private sector to identify risk mitigation strategies to prevent future zoonotic spillover potential associated with trade in wild animals.
As well as social and behavioural change interventions, the Wildlife TRAPS project is supporting policy and regulatory reform efforts, including strengthening supply chain management systems. The identification of critical control points within wildlife trade supply chains will help target illicit and other high-risk wildlife trade practices that may facilitate the transmission of zoonotic diseases.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is responsible for the majority of overseas development assistance from the United States Government and works to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing security and prosperity for America and the world.