In this section we are going to look at the roles that Public Health Vets perform as Official Veterinarians.

We often tend to think of two main OV areas of work which are very broadly and loosely Food OV’s and Farm OV’s. Farm OV’s carry out animal health roles, and thereby public health, for example testing of animals for Tuberculosis and in Statutory Surveillance. This is a simplification of the farm OV duties, and more information may be found on the BCVA and SVS websites.

In this VPHA sub-section we are going to focus on the role that Food OVs play in Veterinary Public Health.


Food OVs

At the heart of ensuring your food is safe for consumption are public health vets known as Official Veterinarians (OVs). These professionals work behind the scenes in abattoirs, cutting plants and cold stores, ensuring that the meat you enjoy is not only delicious but also meets stringent safety standards. Let's delve into the world of OVs and discover the important role they play in safeguarding our health.


Meet Your Food Safety Guardians

Think of OVs as your food safety guardians. They work directly for, or are contracted to, the UK competent authorities in the meat sector (FSA -Food Standards Agency in England & Wales; FSS - Food Standards Scotland; DAERA - Department of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland), focusing on protecting public health through stringent hygiene and safety measures throughout the meat supply chain.

OV’s cover a wide range of skill sets including Ante mortem inspection (fitness of the live animal for human consumption), Animal welfare (on farm signs; fitness for transport; Handling and humane slaughter), Animal health (including detection of Notifiable Disease – the last FMD outbreak in the UK was spotted by an OV during ante mortem inspection in a pig abattoir in 2001 ! ); Post mortem inspection which includes pathology and parasitology to determine fitness of meat and offal’s for human consumption; Audit skills; SRM controls; Hygiene and microbiology, and HACCP (Hazzard Analysis and Critical Control Points).

OV’s play a very important role in animal welfare, as mentioned above. During ante mortem inspection OV’s may identify issues that may have occurred on farm or in transport and are then key in the referral and progression of a possible animal welfare offence to court. Knowledge of the relevant legislative acts, regulations and orders together with formal evidence gathering is another important skill set for OV’s.

OV AMI Fit Healthy

Ante Mortem Inspection - “Are these animals fit and healthy to be processed for human consumption”?

PMI safe for HC

Post Mortem Inspection – “Is this safe for human Consumption?”

PMI Carcasses

Post Mortem carcass checks.


Becoming an OV: Your Journey to Making a Difference

Thinking of a career where you can make a tangible difference in public health? Becoming an OV might be the perfect fit. Here's how you can join this important part of the profession:


1. Qualifications:

To start your journey as an OV, you'll first need to become a qualified veterinarian. This involves completing a veterinary degree program which is recognised by the UK’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

OV’s must be Members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS).


2. Training and Assessment

Aspiring OVs undergo comprehensive training and assessment to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to uphold food safety and animal welfare standards. This includes coursework, practical exercises, and examinations administered by the Food Standards Agency and delivered by Bristol University Veterinary school.



3. Official Controls Qualification (Veterinary) (OCQ(V)):

To become an OV, you must initially have a veterinary degree recognised by the RCVS and completed the OV training course.   The next step is obtaining the Official Controls Qualification (Veterinary) (OCQ(V)). This certification is essential for carrying out OV duties effectively.


4. Authorization:

Upon successfully completing the OCQ(V) program, you'll receive formal official authorisation to work as an OV. This signifies that you've met the standards required to safeguard public health in the meat sector and allows you to exercise necessary legal powers under the relevant public health and animal welfare legislation.

OV’s may also be involved with certification and exports. Information about these roles is in the Certifying Vets sub-section and the qualifications are different to the qualifications and authorisations for the Meat OV’s.


Join Us in Safeguarding Public Health (and animal health & welfare)

Ready to embark on a fulfilling career where you can make a real difference? Join the ranks of Official Veterinarians and help ensure the safety of our food supply. Together, we can protect public health and make a positive impact on the lives of millions.

In England and Wales OV’s are employed by a private provider under direct contract to the Food Standards Agency.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland OV’s are directly employed by Food Standards Scotland and DAERA respectively.


For more information on becoming an OV and the qualifications required, please visit the following resources:


Interested?    Then why not take the first step towards a rewarding career in food safety today!