A new European Commission report has highlighted how control measures are mitigating food safety risks.
The report reveals how the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) has ensured food safety by averting or mitigating many safety risks “by triggering a rapid reaction when a food safety risk is detected.”
"European consumers enjoy the highest food safety standards in the world,” said John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy. “The EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed is a key tool as it allows risks to be identified and removed from the European market.”
Dalli said that the RASFF system reinforces consumer confidence in the food and feed safety system.
“In 2011, we dealt with a number of important crises such as the effects of the Fukushima nuclear incident, the dioxin and the E. coli crisis. The EU managed to tackle them and the lessons we all learnt will no doubt guide us to do even better in the future."
The report highlights the strengthening of safety checks at EU borders as one of the particular successes of the last year – with almost half of the notifications related to food and feed rejected at EU borders.
The report noted that in 2011, 9157 notifications in RASFF related to non-compliances with EU food legislation were reported – of which 617 concerned serious risks.
The majority (5345) of the notifications were follow-ups rather than new notifications (3812).
Out of the 3812 new notifications: 3139 concerned food, 361 concerned feed and 312 concerned food contact materials.
Some of the most reported issues were aflatoxins in feed, dried fruits and nuts and migration of chemical substances from kitchen utensils, revealed the report.
The system has also helped respond to, and mitigate, several serious foodborne outbreaks in recent years such as dioxin and E. coli crises, said the EC.
In 2011 RASFF played a key role in managing two major food safety incidences: Fukushima and E. coli.
However, the Commission also highlighted a number of important lessons must be learned following the crisis in 2011:
- Enhance RASFF with the launch of iRASFF – an online notification platform which will help RASFF work faster and more efficiently than ever.
- Review existing standard operating procedures for crisis management while allowing for sufficient flexibility.
- Revise rules on traceability to increase the speed and efficiency for tracing back dangerous products and withdrawing them from the market.
- Provide dedicated trainings on food-borne investigations and outbreak management as well as hygiene in primary production for major trading partners (through the EU Better training for safer food programme and in cooperation with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC)).
- Develop specific rules on seeds and sprout production.
- Improve coordination in crisis communication activities.