The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has urged authorities in East and Southeast Asia to regulate the trade of meat products.
The FAO warns that the region’s surge in consumption of meat and other animal goods is threatening the health of millions of people and livestock. It says unregulated producers are racing to meet the demand, often ignoring disease and contamination risks.
The FAO’s figures show that during the last 50 years, consumption of meat products has soared in East Asia, from 8.7 kg per capita in the mid 1960s to 50 kg per person in 2015 — an increase of more than 500%. The trend is set to continue, increasing a further 15% by the middle of this century.
The FAO links the soaring consumption to increased prosperity in the region, mainly in China, along with changing diets and demand for more protein-rich foods. However, even excluding China, the region’s meat consumption has trebled during the same period.
Japan’s meat consumption from nearly 33kg per person in the mid-1980s to more than 41kg in the late 1990s, while its net imports quadrupled and self-sufficiency fell by around one-third.
“The elephant in the room is the population explosion in the region — and not only in terms of human population, but also of animal populations in food and agriculture,” Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s chief veterinary officer, told a meeting at the FAO’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific.
“The soaring demand for more meat products is driving an industry to have those products ready for purchase in the markets but there are risks associated with this.”
More than 70% of all current transmittable human diseases are contracted from animals (zoonosis), and as animal production for human consumption increases in East Asia, so too does the threat of emerging pathogens that can spread between animals and people and cross borders even before symptoms begin to appear, the FAO has warned.
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