Consumer awareness of animal medicines has increased significantly over the last two years, a survey carried out by the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) on behalf of the National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) has revealed. Encouragingly for those who use medicines for the health and welfare of Britain's farm animals, the level of consumer concern about medicine use has not increased correspondingly.
Now 80% of consumers are aware that animals are given medicines to treat them when they are sick, and 74% know that they are vaccinated to prevent disease, compared with only 58% for both only 2 years ago. Yet the proportions having treatment or vaccination as their major concern remain extremely low, at only 1% and 3% respectively.
The threats of bluetongue, avian influenza and foot and mouth disease may have driven awareness, along with a greater media focus on animal health, welfare and vaccinations.
IGD has found that shoppers are becoming increasingly engaged in learning how their food is produced following television coverage such as the Channel 4 programmes presented by Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall early in 2008.
Areas where consumer concern has grown the most are animal welfare and living conditions, hygiene standards on farm and at the factory, and what farm animals are fed.
There was also some misunderstanding about vaccination. Although 40% of consumers believed vaccination should be used to help prevent disease, one third were worried that vaccines can be transferred into the food we eat. Less than one in ten believed that animals should not be vaccinated, but culled.
In line with a previous IGD survey in 2006, the overall conclusion was that consumers have confidence that those working in the food chain use animal medicines appropriately and produce safe food.
"This research confirms a good level of consumer trust in the food chain," says Phil Sketchley, chief executive of NOAH. "But the concerns over vaccines - and in particular the fears about residues in food - show that we need to work with the organisations closest to shoppers to provide assurances on this issue. Vaccines do not leave residues in food. They only work to stimulate the animal's own immune system, to protect it against a specific disease.
"NOAH is looking forward to working with other food chain stakeholders, including the Food Standards Agency and retailers, to make sure clear information is available whenever people want to find out more about the safety and quality of their food," he continues.
"We will be sharing all the survey information with industry stakeholders and intend to discuss the findings at the NOAH conference 'The role of vaccination in animal health - future technology and societal acceptance' in London on 25th February 2009," he adds.
Notes to Editors
The National Office of Animal Health represents the UK animal medicines industry: its aim is to promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality medicines for the health and welfare of all animals.
For further information contact Phil Sketchley or Alison Glennon at NOAH on 020 8367 3131, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org or look at the NOAH website www.noah.co.uk