GLOBAL – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has upgraded its global animal disease information platform, the EMPRES-i+ system, to better support countries in identifying, mitigating and even forecasting severe animal diseases, like African Swine Fever (ASF).

EMPRES-i+ replaces an earlier version, EMPRES-i, which was first launched in 2004 and has been widely used by hundreds of stakeholders ranging from local communities to global development partners.

COVID-19 has underlined the need for greater vigilance to new threats from animal diseases. Today’s globalized and hyper-connected world allows the rapid spread of diseases across borders.

In this context, disease intelligence systems need to be far more efficient at capturing big data, far more sensitive to detect unusual events and have the ability to rapidly share information.

The new web-based system is redesigned to encompass a cloud-based platform that links to other data platforms from public health, animal health and environmental sectors. This helps users to easily access data from other sectors, and use information they need for further analysis.

“We need to prioritize and strengthen the animal health sector. Strong international and national animal health systems are key to prevent diseases, ensure safe and nutritious food, and protect farmers’ interests,” remarks Qu Dongyu, FAO Director-General.

EMPRES-i+ features

The upgraded platform’s features include advanced data analytics for users to quickly identify disease events and trends. Moreover, this will also help countries to plan their disease control approaches and target interventions.

It also has capabilities to forecast threats and issue early warnings to allow countries to monitor disease spreading and the risk of new outbreaks. With this function, countries will be able to prepare for possible disease outbreaks early in advance.

FAO regards animal health as critical to food and nutrition security and to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to improving production, eradication of poverty, ending hunger and ensuring healthy lives for all.

Its work on animal health is part of an integrated “One Health” approach focusing on managing risks at the interfaces between animals, humans and plants.

Director-general Qu linked the importance of the new system’s launch to UN World Development Information Day on October 24, highlighting how the power of information technology can be harnessed for FAO’s objectives.

“The new EMPRES-i+ underlines the value of early warning information systems for improving lives and livelihoods. But this can only be achieved through collective information sharing and early action,” he said.

As the entire food and beverage industry benefits from such technological advances, Innova Market Insights has been prompted to crown “Tech to Table” as its third Top Trend for 2022.

African swine fever a major snare

African swine fever (ASF) is among the major current animal diseases most prominently threatening food security and livelihoods. According to the Asian Development Bank, it has already inflicted losses between US$55 billion to US$130 billion, and has also reached the Americas.

Poor management of the disease can have huge consequences on the food and beverage sector. For instance, the Chinese outbreak in 2019 led to a huge increase in prices of European pig meat. As such, keeping the disease at bay has been a critical focus for farmers and the pork industry, and a multitude of safeguards have been put in place across the world.

In a recent win for industry announced earlier this month, pork producers welcomed what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is hailing as a breakthrough in combating ASF – a potential vaccine candidate that provides defense against the potentially devastating virus.

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