Steadfast Commitment to High-Quality and Safe Food in Europe
Over the last decade, food quality and safety has grown into a significant sector, in the public opinion and the media. At the beginning of 2000, related research needed to become a priority as various food scares had caused a serious lack of confidence among EU citizens. Recognising that food safety is a fundamental and ongoing issue, EU policymakers developed Thematic Priority 5 (TP5), Food Quality and Safety. The driving force for setting up TP5 in the Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6) was the need to improve the health and well-being of European citizens through higher quality food and improved control of food production and related environmental factors.
Using the classic ‘farm-to-fork’ approach, the programme gave priority to identifying the major issues for consumers, and then proceeded along the production chain, outlining issues associated with primary production, animal feeds, processing, distribution, consumption and environmental health risks.
In addition to combining production, processing, nutritional and analytical expertise, the projects funded through TP5 drew on expertise from such areas as genomics, medicine, information technologies, ethics, environmental, economic and the social sciences, to achieve their aims. In doing so, the strategy provided the fertile ground for the development of a ‘total food chain’ approach to food quality and safety.
Accordingly, the food sector shifted its focus towards consumer needs, resulting in improved links between production, distribution and consumption. This all-encompassing approach has helped allay concerns and restore consumer confidence across Europe.
This catalogue highlights the challenge undertaken by Food Quality and Safety during FP6. A total of EUR 751 million in funding was injected into research activities between 2002 and 2006 to deepen understanding of the links between food production, consumption and health. TP5 supported 181 research projects to help develop an environmentally friendly production and distribution chain able to deliver safer, healthier and varied food to European citizens. The scope of the theme is indicative of the scale of the research issues addressed – from food-related risks and diseases (relying in particular on biotechnology and the results of post-genomic research) to the health risks associated with environmental changes.
The research activities funded by FP6 also contributed to the realisation of a European Research Area promoting mobility, cooperation and training of EU scientists through the pooling of know-how and expertise.
Contemporary philosophers have already noted the key role played by modern food production in western societies. Furthermore, food safety regulation and the governance of regional and global biotechnology markets present new and more complex challenges for European policymakers. The selected research projects served to reinforce and establish European governance around food production and consumption. Combined, they offer valuable insight into the complexity of research issues regarding one of the most pressing international problems of today.