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image European Research News Centre > Agriculture and Food > Food quality and safety: from the farm to the fork
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image image image Date published: 07/11/02
  image Food quality and safety: from the farm to the fork
RTD info special FP6
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  Since the devastation caused by the bovine spongiform encephalitis crisis, the Union has, so to speak, 'taken the bull by the horns' in carrying out a thorough review and draconian restructuring of its political responsibilities in the area of food safety. Research on this subject under the Sixth Framework Programme will be in line with this goal.
   
   

In 1997, all the European Commission's powers of scientific consultation and decision-making in the field of food safety were brought together under the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Affairs. Under the slogan of 'from the farm to the fork', this restructuring was designed to group and coordinate all the sensitive issues relating to food safety and quality at every stage of the agri-foodstuffs chain: animal health and feed, quality of crop production (including GMO innovations), safety of agricultural inputs (fertilisers, pesticides, etc.), quality and monitoring of processed foods and products (including rules on labelling), and the problem of food safety in international trade.

In January 2000, the Commission published a basic charter, the White Paper on Food Safety, which sets out a plan to reform the legislation into a coherent and transparent set of rules, reinforce controls and increase the capability of the scientific advice system. All existing legislation will be reviewed before 2007 to ensure compatibility with the new Community jurisdiction on food safety, which is now being developed.

Framework Programme support

The jewel in the crown of this reform is the creation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This independent body, established in January 2002, is responsible for the scientific evaluation of risks, communicating directly with the general public and issuing health warnings if necessary (see EFSA: the jewel in the crown).

Under the Sixth Framework Programme, the choice of the priority theme Food quality and safety is designed to support this new agency in its essential work. Research priorities will be: the epidemiology of food-related diseases and allergies; the impact of diet on health; traceability processes throughout the production chain; methods of analysis, detection and control; the safest and most environment-friendly production methods; the effect of animal feed ingredients on human health; and environmental risks to health.


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EFSA: the jewel in the crown

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is a major tool in Community food safety policy, based on the principles of independence, scientific excellence and transparency. It is an autonomous body, acting independently of the Community institutions and with a considerable budget at its disposal. It has a wide brief to pursue a proactive policy of scientific evaluation, advice, information gathering, risk identification and communicating with the public, including issuing emergency health warnings if necessary. It is responsible for all matters which could have a direct or indirect effect in this field (including, for example, the health and welfare of animals, GMOs not destined for human or animal food, product labelling, nutrition, etc.). Although the Commission is its principal 'customer', the EFSA is available to respond to scientific questions from the European Parliament and Member States, and can undertake scientific investigations at its own initiative. Nevertheless, risk management, including legislation and controls, remains a matter for the European institutions – although an extension of the EFSA's powers in this direction cannot be ruled out at a later date.

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To find out more:


From TSE to BSE - Researchers are mobilising to understand the almost incomprehensible: the crossing of the species barrier and, subsequently, the nature and pathway of the prion. Right, human brain tissue showing spongiform degeneration due to new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.  (c) Robert Will, CJD Surveillance Unit, Edinburgh.

From TSE to BSE
Researchers are mobilising to understand the almost incomprehensible: the crossing of the species barrier and, subsequently, the nature and pathway of the prion. Right, human brain tissue showing spongiform degeneration due to new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
(c) Robert Will, CJD Surveillance Unit, Edinburgh.


Listeria sequencing - Under the leadership of the Institut Pasteur, ten European laboratories have completed the entire sequencing of Listeria monocytogenes. This research project will permit a much earlier diagnosis of listeriosis, an illness of worrying frequency which kills 20-30% of sufferers. (c) Institut Pasteur

Listeria sequencing
Under the leadership of the Institut Pasteur, ten European laboratories have completed the entire sequencing of Listeria monocytogenes. This research project will permit a much earlier diagnosis of listeriosis, an illness of worrying frequency which kills 20-30% of sufferers.
(c) Institut Pasteur


Detection of GMOs - Evaluation and validation of methods of analysis, detection and traceability of GMOs carried out at the Joint Research Centre's Institute of Consumer Health and Protection at Ispra.

Detection of GMOs
Evaluation and validation of methods of analysis, detection and traceability of GMOs carried out at the Joint Research Centre's Institute of Consumer Health and Protection at Ispra.



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