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Cooking up a storm: Where now for food safety in Europe?

The European Association for Food Safety, SAFE consortium released a Vision Document yesterday, “Keeping Food Safety on the Agenda” which is a call for research in food safety-related sciences.

Though food is now assumed safer than ever, about 1 in 6 or 65 million Europeans, gets sick of food-borne illness every year. The European Association for Food Safety, SAFE consortium released a Vision Document yesterday, “Keeping Food Safety on the Agenda” which is a call for research in food safety-related sciences. SAFE says that food safety is not negotiable; every day the over 500 million people living in Europe assume that every food product in the market, the company or school canteen, the restaurant and their home is safe to eat. When there is a food safety crisis, sickness and perhaps loss of life follow and the public loses faith in food providers who then suffer huge losses. Five areas of food safety research were presented at the SAFE consortium event: The citizen and food safety; Microbiological hazards and spoilage organisms; Chemical, biological and physical hazards, including environmental contaminants; Tools for assessing and managing risks in the food chain and Technologies for making foods safe and increasing shelf life. At the SAFE consortium Vision Document release, attended by 35+ European food safety experts, each of the five food safety areas was presented by a SAFE consortium scientist and commented upon by representatives from industry, consumers, regulators, researchers and the European Commission. Beate Kettlitz, Director of Food Policy, Science and R&D at FoodDrinkEurope gave the Industry response to the SAFE agenda and noted “You can forget labeling and marketing and innovation and even nutrition if the food is not safe”. After the presentations, the panel of commentators took questions from the audience and all five agreed that, Yes, food safety should remain high not only on the scientific agenda but also on the economic agenda. In the 1990s, ‘Mad Cow Disease’ and the ‘Dioxin Crisis’ prompted a new era in food safety: A White Paper was issued by the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was established. Policies were drawn up, more demanding legislation was imposed, and national agencies responsible for assessing and communicating food safety risks emerged. But vigilance tends to fade in periods with no big or international food scares. And it has become clear, e.g. contaminated sprouts in Germany in 2011 which claimed 47 lives and the recent food authenticity crisis surrounding horse meat, that despite all the controls, our food chain is still vulnerable. The SAFE consortium and its member institutes are committed to keeping this discussion in the forefront for researchers, policy-makers, regulators and the general public.

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Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom