Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsFood Safety is a scientific discipline whose aim is to keep humans safe from any disease coming from any eaten food. One of the priorities of the European Union is addressed to ensure the health of humans, animals, and plants at every step of the food production processes, the so-called from farm to fork pathway. This goal is pursued by preventing food contamination and promoting food hygiene, animal health and welfare. Another important issue addressed by the EU is keeping the consumer informed about both the food safety policy and the food law adopted so far. Having a common food safety policy throughout the EU's countries is a crucial point in view of the fact that much of the food we eat crosses borders.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsIndeed, the EU is a single market and goods, including food, can be sold freely. The basic principles for the EU's food safety policy are defined by the General Food Law adopted in 2002 and deals with several food safety related issues covering the whole food chain from animal feed and food production to processing, storage, transport, import and export, and finally retail sales.

Skip to 1 minute and 26 secondsAnother crucial point for the EU food law is to establish the principles for risk analysis that regulate scientific and technical assessment implemented in order to ensure a proper protection of humans, animals, and environment.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 secondsScientific advices about food safety are addressed by the European Food Safety Authority that responds to requests from the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the EU member states by organizing its work programs according to emerging priorities based on specific needs. The scientific advice is provided by EFSA's Scientific Panels and Scientific Committee composed of members selected by an open selection procedure. The main goal of the Authority is to monitor and analyze scientific data and information on biological hazards, chemical contaminants, food consumption, and emerging risks. Lastly, EFSA produces scientific output addressed to both the scientific community and to the consumers.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 secondsThe EU requires that foodstuffs such as meat, milk, or eggs, must not contain residue levels of veterinary medicines that might represent a hazard to the health of the consumer. Regulation 470/2009 lays down the rules and procedures for the establishment of the Maximum Residue Levels, MRLs. The MRL is the maximum allowed concentration of residue in a food product obtained from an animal that has received a veterinary medicine. Before a veterinary medicine intended for food-producing animals is authorized in the EU, the European Medicines Agency's, EMA, Committee for Medicinal Products for Veterinary Use evaluates the safety of its pharmacologically active substances and their residues, and recommends MRLs.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 secondsA more technical surveillance is carried out by means of the rigorous checks in order to ensure that all products entering the food chain meet relevant standards. They include tests for harmful residues from veterinary medicines, pesticides, and contaminants such as dioxins. For this purpose, one of the roles of the European Commission is to verify the effectiveness of the control systems implemented at the national level.

Skip to 3 minutes and 51 secondsFor this purpose, the Commission department, DG SANTE, Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, supervises the official controls carried out by member states in the frame of the Multi-Annual National Control Plans, MANCPs, in order to check their compliance with EU standards. The MANCPs contain general information on the structure and organization of the systems of feed and food control, and of animal health and animal welfare control. Furthermore, the plans must specify the instruments and structures, including the personnel and material resources available for the fulfillment of the objectives. Chemical analysis for the detection of veterinary drugs, hormones, and contaminants in food are performed under strict legislation rules ensuring the highest level of food safety, e.g. MRL for veterinary drugs.

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 secondsAt present, the MANCPs of EU member states addressed to residue surveillance are essentially based on the identification of banned molecules by analytical methods. However, the official results reported a very low incidence of non-compliance for illegal growth-promoter treatments in food producing animals. This could be due to the fact that the chemical assays are not able to detect compounds of unknown chemical structure, or presence at very low levels. As a consequence, there is the need of innovative and sensitive methods able to detect a broad range of substances based on the detection of the biological effects exerted by each category of molecules, bio markers, rather than only on their chemical structures.

Skip to 5 minutes and 33 secondsTherefore, the detection of these effects on the animal's physiology represents a promising way for the development of new rapid and cost-effective tests to screen the misuse of anabolic agents. In addition, the EU operates a rapid early-warning system, RASFF, Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, to protect people from food that does not comply with European food safety rules. This system also spots whether foodstuffs contain banned substances or excessive amounts of high-risk substances, such as residues of veterinary medicines in meat, or carcinogenic colourings in food. When a threat is spotted, alerts go out across the EU.

Skip to 6 minutes and 16 secondsBlocking a single batch may be all that is needed, but all shipments of a particular product from a farm, factory or port of entry would be stopped if necessary. Products already in warehouses and shops may be recalled.

Introduction: Control of contaminants and drug residues in food

Food safety is a scientific discipline whose aim is to keep humans safe from any disease coming from food. One of the key priorities of the European Union (EU) is to ensure the health of humans, animals, and plants at every step of the food production processes, the so called from farm to fork pathway. This goal is pursued by preventing food contamination and promoting food hygiene, animal health and welfare.

EU’s food policy is based on solid science and thorough risk assessment. The EU institutions are guided by the work of scientific committees and by independent scientific advice from agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The EFSA was established in 2002 and is based in Parma (IT). The scientific advice is provided by EFSA’s Scientific Panels and Scientific Committee composed of members selected by an open selection procedure. The main goal of the authority is to monitor and analyze scientific data and information on biological hazards, chemical contaminants, food consumption, and emerging risks. The EFSA also produces scientific output addressed to both the scientific community and to the consumers.

The basic principles for the EU’s food safety policy are defined in the General Food Law adopted in 2002 (Reg No 178/2002) and deals with several food safety related issues covering the whole food chain from animal feed and food production to processing, storage, transport, import and export, and finally retail sales. A key element of the EU food law is to establish the principles for risk analysis that regulate scientific and technical assessment implemented in order to ensure the proper protection of humans, animals, and environment.

EU inspectors also visit farms and businesses associated with the production of food. National authorities carry out checks at the EU’s borders to ensure that food and animals coming from outside the EU meet the European standards.

EU inspectors control including:

  • Additives and flavourings
  • Safe limits for food contact materials
  • Limiting feed additives, plant and veterinary product residues
  • Food hygiene
  • Reducing food contamination
  • High quality and traditional foods
  • Animal health and reducing animal disease
  • The spread of disease from animals to humans
  • Animal welfare.

For further reading you can explore articles provided in the ‘See Also’ section.

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This video is from the free online course:

Farm to Fork: Sustainable Food Production in a Changing Environment

EIT Food