ACTA VET. BRNO 2006, 75, 3: 465-467

Book Review



Terrestrial Animal Health Code 2005. Fourteenth Edition, Office International of Epizootics, Paris, 2005, 634 pages. ISBN 92-9044-635-8


    The structure of the Code is the same as of the previous issue reviewed in Acta Veterinaria Brno, 2005, 74 (1):161-163. All the comments are valid also for the new issue 2005. It continues to apply the antisanitary policy based on the fraudulent principle ”Import risk analysis is preferable to a zero risk approach” supporting openly the export of non-healthy animals and non-pathogen-free animal products.  The Code, including three hundred pages of annexes, has been consistently avoiding everything that would demand from exporting countries a full sanitary quality, e.g. no one word on the most important conditions for avoiding spread  of all pathogens’ through international trade.

    Veterinary import conditions for meat, meat products, eggs, milk, milk products and other products of animal origin, representing more than a half value of international animal trade, have been systematically missing. These products represent the most important factors of invisible pathogen spreading. The import conditions protecting against food-borne diseases are missing as well, and thus consciously the door open for their mass and daily international and post-import countrywide spread due to speedy distribution, as irreparable disastrous consequences of the extremely holey Code. This “policy” is reflecting minimal or zero etiological investigations of animal products in exporting countries interested in “smooth trade” (no investigations = no pathogen discovery =  easy export, regardless of the pathogens). The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) avoiding the  contamination only  does not bloc streams of pathogens initiated at animal farms.

    The Code is characterized by several historically unique features unimaginable in any other international trade standard. The Code is unilaterally favours the exporting countries that do not respect the interests of importing countries in consequent protection of animal and human health. The Code does not admit that importing countries should demand full sanitary quality of animal  commodities and the guarantee for them; on the contrary, it imposes the duty to accept non-healthy animals and non-pathogen-free food of animal origin. Exceptionally, the importing country can require healthy animals or pathogen-free food only if this is “scientifically justified” in writing to convince the exporting country (if this perverted logic would be applied e.g. on motor cars, then the importing country could not require fully functioning cars without written “scientific justification” !?). Instability of this Code is reflected in publishing every year a new issue with many amendments without marking their emplacements. Relatively easy and unpunished export of diseases, thanks to the Code, has lead to a stop of almost all disease eradication programmes in exporting countries due to the loss of  any economic motivation.

    In the chapter “Certification procedures” the most important provision for guaranteeing full independence on producers and exporters of veterinary attests issuing persons is missing as well as provision for consistent government supervision on them; they can confirm what they wish without any legal responsibility. The lack of effective control becomes a breeding ground for corruption and thus disease export. This can be documented by now incalculable thousands of disease export cases in spite of having “OIE international veterinary certificates”. These have only information value and do not guarantee animal health or pathogen-free status. In some exporting countries almost all private practitioners as “accredited veterinarians” (often without special training and exams) have government rubber stamp for “official” international veterinary certificates.

    The chapter “Evaluation of veterinary services”, overfull of details having nothing to do with international trade, reflects the Code concept to avoid any duty of exporting countries to guarantee full sanitary quality of animals and their products. One cannot find a single word on the most important criteria for international trade such the  of real occurrence of diseases, control/eradication results, active surveys, average size of animal populations and trade per one public service veterinarian, etc. in the exporting countries. The Code does not respect the difference of dependency on producers and exporters, and it consciously does not distinguish between government service and difficult-to-control private service. The reason is that the major exporting countries have often very weak government services unable to control effectively the disease situation, to monitor exported commodities and to issue international veterinary attests themselves. Following the World Bank policy, the Code has been degrading the role of government services that are, in fact,, the only organizations qualified to initiate and organise nationwide animal disease control, eradication and surveillance.

    The chapter on risk assessment, containing absurd and unrealistic procedure in international trade practice, is deliberately omitting the main factor such as disease situation in the exporting countries. The chapter abuses the risk evaluation to “facilitate trade” at the expense of human and animal health in importing countries. This is similar to the World Trade Organization (WTO) “Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures “, a “work” of New Zealand, one of the major exporting countries that seems to dominate the OIE (now World Organization for Animal Health) and its Code Commission. This country itself has obviously no good idea about animal health situation (in 2004 it reported the occurrence of 35 internationally notifiable diseases and on 31 diseases of them reported “no information available”). Similar situation is in most of the major exporting countries. The OIE intentionally has not included in its information system data on nationwide active surveys providing more reliable disease occurrence data than only available data on ad hoc reported cases representing the “tip of the iceberg”. How can the importing countries possibly assess the risk of disease introduction having no information on real situation in the exporting countries?

    The Code provisions are often not the result of scientific risk assessment, as repeatedly demanded from the importing countries. The case of paratuberculosis can serve as an example: The above-mentioned country declared in 2004 that  this disease was not more a hazard; as a follow-up the Code specific protective import conditions disappeared and the whole page entitled “Paratuberculosis” was left empty (something unknown in international standards). One cannot believe that the delegates of all member countries accepted willingly this “no-condition” opening “officially” the way for mass global spreading of paratuberculosis. This example documents that the Code has nothing to do with real protection of health and that the importing countries have not a slightest chance against a small group of the most influential exporting countries. These dominate the OIE and abuse it for their unscrupulous egoistic interests and damage in a irreparable manner both animal and human health in the world but also the reputation of veterinary medicine. The OIE, after becoming a WTO “affiliated branch” filial in 1995 seems to readily service to business instead of health, ignoring the basic principle of  medicine – Primum non nocere!

    The OIE itself, in spite of repeatedly calling for “convincing scientific risk assessment” to be elaborated by the importing countries, has never carried out and presented to member country governments any analysis of the practical impact of the Code on disease spreading through international trade. The OIE even abolished the useful information system including disease import, obviously due to the fear to disclose the truth that it has been converted into an organization that consciously supports international spreading of the vast majority of communicable diseases, including almost all zoonoses. The previous very useful Code has been converted, thanks to irresponsible trickery with the “risk assessment” replacing original zero risk concept, into the most dangerous international document for animal health in the history of veterinary medicine.

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                                                                                                       Prof. MVDr Václav  K o u b a , DrSc.