Following recent food scares in Europe over the last few years, consumers have begun to ask for more safety guarantees for the entire food chain. These assurances have been introduced progressively, resulting in an EU-wide decrease in the number of cases of food poisoning. Between 2001 and 2005, the United Kingdom alone saw recorded food poisoning cases fall from around 96 000 to 78 921, a drop of almost 17 000. Nevertheless, the final stages of food production are still of crucial importance. They are the last point of checking before products are put on supermarket shelves. This is where SAFOODNET comes in.
FOOD SAFETY DIFFICULT TO IMPLEMENT IN MANY MEMBER STATES
Food contamination is not uncommon, even in the most developed countries, and foodborne diseases (for example campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and listeriosis) have reached epidemic proportions in several Member States. This can have a significant effect on the economy of a nation or region because of working days lost, which may be considerable. The other is a downturn in business as a result of losing the confidence of consumers, both locally and globally.
Emerging microbial problems, such as foodborne viruses, avian flu, and also bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) are creating additional concerns among both the public and decision makers. It is, therefore, crucial to involve the scientific community in reassuring the consumer by properly explaining the issues.
LEARNING BY JOINING FORCES
Following the enlargement of the EU in May 2004, one of the greatest challenges has been to preserve the integrity of the food safety area. In this way food safety within the EU has been further improved. This important work continues with SAFOODNET, which is building a sustainable network with an emphasis on microbial food safety. The project is promoting the sharing of knowledge, in order to prevent risks related to microbial hazards. Furthermore, the core group together with external experts will identify important RTD needs, as well as outline solutions on how to fulfil the defined RTD needs in microbial food safety at European level. Concurrently, based on the outlined solutions, actions will be taken to apply for RTD funding in food processing and packaging safety.
In practical terms, scientific institutions from across Europe are participating in pilot actions, seminars and workshops. Interested researchers and representatives of SMEs from other EU countries, as well as Associated and Candidate Countries are encouraged to participate in these activities. The establishment of a network between food companies, especially SMEs, and researchers in the new Member States is of paramount importance. Indeed, the more input there is, the better the results.
Failures in the food safety system are the cause of major economic losses, both for the companies involved and for the entire food chain. When safety failures lead to crisis, which they increasingly do, the economies of countries and regions suffer. Reaching a high level of food safety, therefore, has to be at the very top of the agenda for the new Member States and for the Associated and Candidate Countries. The stakeholders in the food industry are now making progress and responding to this challenge, much to the benefit of both consumers and industry.
List of Partners
- VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (Finland)
- Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia)
- Veterinary Research Institute (Czech Republic)
- Bio-Centrum - DTU (Denmark)
- Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia (Slovenia)
- Tübıtak Marmara Research Centre (Turkey)
- Full title:
- Food safety and hygiene networking within new Member States and associated candidate countries
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Gun Linnea Wirtanen,
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Alessio Vassarotti,
- EU contribution:
- € 555,000
- Specific Support Action