EU food safety challenges revealed

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food Safety: state-of-play, current and future challenges
Food Safety: state-of-play, current and future challenges
Nanotechnology, globalisation, foodborne illness and endocrine disruptors are some of the food safety challenges named in a report.

Issues such as the above, climate change, private food standards and current trade negotiations are expected to put pressure on current and future EU food safety policy.

Challenges were chosen because of relevance to policy dilemmas or key features relating to EU food safety legislative and non-legislative action.

The document was requested by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI).

EU food safety policy differs from other countries because of a ‘farm-to-fork’ approach and the precautionary principle with scientific uncertainties.

This has recently come under pressure due to increased global standard setting, private standards and regulatory coherence in free trade agreements, according to the report.

Food safety challenges

Legislation is increasingly being weighed against its impact in compliance costs and administrative burden, especially for SMEs, with increasing global competition and trade.

Globalisation of food chains and climate change may contribute to increased incidences of foodborne diseases and toxins in food, making international cooperation even more important.

New vectors of disease due to climate change are already emerging and will require reinforced emphasis on early warning and monitoring systems at EU and global levels.

Foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter are, despite ongoing progress, persistent and evolving into antibiotic resistant strains.

“One overall challenge is the generation and maintenance of constructive dialogue and collaboration between public health, veterinary and food safety experts, bringing together multidisciplinary skills and multi-pathogen expertise,”​ said the report.

The area of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a particularly troubling food safety challenge.

EDCs, Nanotechnology and food fraud

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) pose challenges to developing regulation as current risk-based approaches do not adequately assess potential risks because exposure levels are not as important as duration and time of exposure in the human life cycle.

Current work on regulation of EDCs also illustrates the importance of applying the precautionary principle to deal with “scientific uncertainty”.

Nanotechnologies have applications in food packaging, where they improve functionality. It is also used in improving taste, enhancing the bioavailability of ingredients, reducing content of elements such as sugar and salt, and slowing down microbial activity.

This week members of the ENVI committee rejected a Commission proposal​ that would have updated novel foods rules to allow the use of nanoparticles.

Increasing globalisation and increasingly complex food chains are likely to lead to (more) food fraud and adulteration, according to the report.

The horsemeat incident illustrated fraud that was not a public health threat or food safety risk, but undermines consumer confidence. It also illustrates the concerns of consumers about product contents and increasing complex food chains, and concerns relating to traceability.

Robert Pederson, Food Policy Consultants and Guillermo Hernández, Milieu (a consultancy firm) wrote the paper.

Its main aim is to assist Members of the ENVI Committee preparing for the hearings of Commissioner-Designates. 

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