Knowledge Based Bio-Economy

VEG-I-TRADE

Impact of climate change and globalisation on safety of fresh produce – governing a supply chain of uncompromised food sovereignty (Environmental impacts and total food chain)

Project Acronym: VEG-I-TRADE

Title of project: Impact of climate change and globalisation on safety of fresh produce – governing a supply chain of uncompromised food sovereignty

Research area: Environmental impacts and total food chain

Contract No : 244994

EU Contribution : € 5 999 997

Start date: May 2010

Duration: 48 Months

Status: on-going

Food is no longer purchased on a local basis, but produced and moved worldwide, enabling the consumer to purchase out of season products at any time of the year. However, this means there is less control on how food is grown, prepared and shipped. At present, the EU is one of the largest importers and exporters of fresh produce in the world. The key word in trade relationships is ‘trust’, and the inherent confidence one has built in obtaining continuous and appreciated food quality and safety.

The VEG-i-TRADE project aims to identify the impact of such globalisation on food safety, including microbiological and chemical hazards of both fresh products and derived food products. This will lead to recommendations at both European and global level relating to quality assurance and the setting of science-based performance objectives.

The project will develop problem solving technologies to ensure safe food products. It will investigate aspects of water quality and water treatment, horticultural production practices, disinfection treatment and packaging technologies. The importance and implementation of these control measures will be evaluated in collaboration with SMEs and larger industrial partners. Baseline studies on the hazards, intervention technologies and best practices in the fresh produce chain will provide input for both microbial and chemical risk assessment. Results will be used to support risk-based sampling plans, evaluating the risks of newly identified threats as affected by the global trade system and anticipated climate change.

The results of this project will impact those involved in ensuring that products imported into the EU meet conditions and procedures detailed in extensive legislation covering food safety. Regulation 178/2002 sets down general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority as well as procedures for matters of food safety. Other legislation covers the hygiene of foodstuffs, as well as official controls required to verify compliance with feed and food law. To a large extent these cover animal health and animal welfare, placing the responsibility for overseeing them on national governments. In contrast regulations covering import of plant-derived foods lie largely outside government control. An exception is controls aimed at restricting the movement or accidental import of plant diseases and pests as covered by phytosanitary regulations. These do require the establishment of competent authorities. However, since compliance with other EU requirements concerning imported vegetable based foods may be ensured in most cases by non-governmental bodies, the project will impact mainly on this sector of private companies and/or laboratories.

The safety of food becomes more of a problem as the breadth of supply sources increases from the local, to the national and then the international scale. Procedures developed by this project should help mitigate such problems. It should answer questions concerning the type of monitoring required, the methods to be used and the place where this should take place.

Control measures of a managerial and technological nature will be developed in the supply chain of crop production, post-harvest processing and logistics to minimise food safety risks. Assessment of the performance of horticultural safety management systems by a novel diagnostic instrument at EU level, exemplified by several countries in Europe and tailored on a global level, including major EU trade partners from various climate zones, will be developed.

The project will establish a discussion forum for stakeholders in the global food chain covering issues of acceptable risk, sustainability of fresh produce production and long-term strategy for international food trade, while making no compromise in food safety for European consumers and respecting food sovereignty.

Risk communication to increase awareness of trade partners' production systems and uneven consumer behaviour will provide key information for prioritisation of risk management strategies for the producers. It should answer questions concerning the type of monitoring required, the methods to be used and the place where this should take place. It should also alert the various authorities involved to actions that may need to be taken to reduce risks.

Website of project: www.veg-i-trade.org/

Coordinator: Mieke Uyttendaele , Mieke.Uyttendaele@UGent.be

Organisation: University of Gent, Belgium, www.ugent.be/

Partners: