A group of 10 (future) veterinarians visited the Netherlands for a two weeks lasting course ‘Food Quality (including Food Safety), Risk Assessment and Control’ which was executed from 3 till 14 September 2018 at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University (FVM-UU). The group consisted of seven final year students in the State Veterinary Track and one lecturer in Veterinary Public Health of the South African Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria and two State Veterinarians of the Department of Agriculture Forestry & Fisheries, Pretoria. Dutch veterinary students participated where possible.
The aim of the programme was to create an understanding of food quality and food safety control in the Netherlands in practice and compare the Dutch system with the South African system. Furthermore, developments in veterinary quality control (including food safety) and quality assurance by veterinarians working in the production of food of animal origin were discussed. Quality control and assurance is becoming more and more important. Consumers and therefore big retail companies in Europe, but also export and import partners demand quality control and assurance from stable to table. The commercial food production sector, including primary farms, will have to develop risk-based quality control and assurance systems, accepted and controlled by official veterinarians, who guard these factors.
Exchanging knowledge and ideas and networking between students and staffs from South Africa and the Netherlands is essential. It proved to be beneficial to have a combined group of state veterinarians and students to enhance the interaction with actual veterinarians working at the Ministry.
The parties involved in the programme are the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture Nature and Food Quality (MinLNV) (including the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) who financed the tickets of the group, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, who financed the stay and programme, the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Pretoria, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, animal product industries and the South African Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, the South African Embassies in Brussels and The Hague and the Department of Agriculture Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF). Their joint efforts resulted in a strong programme, that was well prepared, financed and executed by all parties involved. The joint visit of the South African DAFF and Dutch MinLNV delegations to FVM-UU, to whom the take home messages were presented on the final day, was a highlight in the programme.
After completion of the course the students stayed in Utrecht for an additional two week clinical training at FVM-UU’s Farm Animal Health Department.
All participants returned to South Africa. The state veterinarians wrote a recommendations’ report for DAFF and the students completed their veterinary studies and all graduated. They are now working as State Veterinarians. Having the knowledge and insights gained from the project enables them to assess and advice on effective veterinary quality control systems to audit food quality and food safety, in South Africa.
(Dutch) economic interests
South African State Veterinarians have an influence on the development of the agricultural animal sector. When South African products of animal origin are being imported into the Netherlands, they need to comply with EU regulations. The knowledge gained in the programme can be used to improve the animal production and food quality control programmes currently in use in South Africa.
The project will be continued. Plans for the second, extended edition of the course are being developed. The South African Department of Agriculture Forestry & Fisheries, Pretoria and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture Nature and Food Quality, The Hague have both promised financial contributions.