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Food Safety in the EU: Maintaining High Standards

Mary Daly, FSPA member and Managing Director of The Food Safety Company attended the above conference in Brussels on the 31st January 2018. The following key note speakers had interesting observations on transparency, labelling, acrylamide and the private sector controlling food safety. The following notes were taken at the conference.
Director of Food & Food Safety, Sabine Julelieher, spoke about positive developments in Food Safety. Food Safety levels are high, with better traceability and emergency measures such as "Rapid Alert” established. There is a need for effective and transparent Risk Assessment- this is vital for trust. "There is no room for second class citizens within the EU” or dual quality of food. From March 2018, all alcoholic beverages will list ingredients and nutrients.
Camille Perrin, Senior Food Policy Officer said her role was to promote consumers interests in EU decision- making by:
1.    Easier to read labels.
2.    Compulsory allergen labelling non-prepacked foods (menus).
3.    Mandatory nutritional labelling (2016)
4.    Consumers need to know what is exactly in their food.
"Consumers in the Dark in Food Origin”.
Allergens - "still too little information when eating out”. Allergens should be in written form, staff must be aware and trained. Cross contamination must be avoided and risk must be communicated to customers and avoid the term "may contain”.
Dual Food Quality (2nd Class Citizens)
1.    Not just East v West divide.
2.    E.C. initiates are welcome.
3.    Single Markey working for all.
4.    Strengthen consumer movement.

Dirk Jacobs – Food Drink Europe, said Food and Drink is the biggest industry within the EU, the biggest employer and 40 million people employed from Farm to Fork. The EU is the largest exporter of food and drink in the world.  Consumers want transparency not an overload of information- what is the primary ingredient of my product? Dual Quality- why are there differences- consumer preferences and purchasing power, therefore a product is designed accordingly. Quality is a difficult concept as it is subjective.
Jacky Le Gosles spoke about "Better Training for Safer Food” (BTSF) and promoted the concept of e-learning for officials.
Pascal Torfs from The Federal Agency for The Safety of The Food Chain said his role was 3- fold.
1.    Prevention and detection.
2.    Investigation.
3.    Co-operation with other authorities.
Food Fraud investigations have doubled since 2010.
Mute Schimpf from "Friends of The Earth” suggested that there is a conflict between food safety and trade concerns. The alliance between Canada and the EU has an objective to minimise adverse trade impacts of regulatory practice. In short "buy direct from farmers”.
Dr. Tetty Havinga spoke about public control versus private controls/certification bodies. Public and private bodies co operating on safe food. E.U Regulation 882/2004 is the official control. 2017/615 allows for private control.
1.    Integrate of private food safety assurance schemes.
2.    Integrate of private auditors/certification bodies.
3.    Integrate more private controls at Food Business Operator Level.
What are the drawbacks to private control?
1.    Lack of transparency and accountability.
2.    The capacity of private companies.
3.    Willingness and motivation- focus is on the customer.
4.    Fraud and Deception.
5.    Loose overview.
"Can industry control industry”.
"How can government fulfil its responsibilities by reliance on private controls?”
Floriana Cimmarusti from Safe Food Advocacy Europe (SAFE) spoke about Acrylamide in starchy foods cooked at 120 degrees plus. From 11th April 2018, Food Business Operators will have to show evidence of mitigation measures to reduce Acrylamide in foods (per Reg 2017/2158). Particularly at risk are children snacks, chips, biscuits and cereals.
Mariann Skar spoke on the labelling of alcoholic Beverages in order to promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent alcohol consumption. Conflict between legislation and health information, can we trust the alcohol industry to label itself? Public institutions must inform the consumer in order that they make informed decisions.
Chantial Clement spoke on sustainable food systems, hunger, livelihoods of farmers, consumer welfare and a power- based approach. "Too big to feed”- there is a concentration in the agri-food system and a growing demand for animal protein in developing markets.
There are many negative impacts to consolidation:
1.    Consumer Health- "escalating the risk”, "Functional Farms”, there is a downward pressure on standards; it affects consumers’ confidence and farmers losing organic standard’s.
2.    Fraud and labour abuse (2013 horsemeat scandal). Fraud- concentration on wholesale and retail sectors.
3.    Economic influence- large number of actors having residue influence.
4.    Hollowing out corporate commitments to sustainability.

Consolidation can lead to risks and affects choice, information, consumer health, regulatory oversight and accountability.