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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions on the topic of food integrity.
Image with FAQ to represent Frequently Asked Questions
© QUB

In this section you will find an answer to frequently asked questions on the topic of food quality, safety and authenticity.

1. What is food safety?

Food safety is the scientific discipline describing the handling, preparation and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. A food safety hazard is defined as any biological, chemical, physical or allergenic agent which could cause illness or injury in the absence of control. Food safety hazards can be introduced at any stage along the food chain, from farm to fork.

2. Who is responsible for the safety of food?

The challenges facing the food system are enormous and the safety of food is a shared responsibility across the entire food system. Together, the food industry, government, academia and consumers are all working to ensure the safety of the food we consume. Food safety legislation, control measures and monitoring procedures are in place to minimize the risk of contamination and ensure the safety of our food.

3. What does Regulation 178/2002 cover?

The EU General Food Law, Regulation 178/2002 lays down the general principles for food and feed law and sets out an overarching and coherent framework for the development of food and feed legislation at both a European Union and national level. This ‘food law’ defines a food and feed business as any business carrying out any operation of production, manufacture, processing, storage, transport or distribution of feed or feed. It sets out food safety requirements, traceability and responsibilities of food and feed business operators and aims to ensure the health and welfare of humans, animals, plants and the environment, in addition to establishing the rights of the consumer to safe, authentic and accurate information.

4. What is the European Food Safety Authority?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is a European Agency that was established in 2002 and is based in Parma (IT). The EFSA is funded by the European Union and operates independently of the European legislative and executive institutions and EU Member States. The EFSA’s is responsible for risk assessment. As a risk assessor they produce scientific opinions and advice to provide a good foundation for European policies and legislation. They also have a duty to communicate their scientific findings, not only to key stakeholders, but also to the general public to help bridge the gap between science and the consumer.

5. What is food quality?

Typically, the term food quality represents the sum of all properties and attributes of a food item that are acceptable to the customer. These food quality attributes include: Appearance (including size, shape, colour, gloss and consistency); Texture; Flavour; Nutritional content; and Ethical and sustainable production. Food safety and adhering to the standards set out in legislation can also be considered as elements of food quality as they contribute to consumer’s acceptance of a food product and can be used as a marketing tool to trade products in countries with high food safety standards. In the food industry, the quality attributes or criteria of a food product are typically defined in the product specification. It is conformance to these specifications that determine quality.

6. What is GMP?

Good manufacturing practices (GMP) direct all persons working in direct contact with food, surfaces that food might contact and food packaging materials, to conform to sanitation and hygiene practices to the extent necessary to protect against contamination of food from direct and indirect sources. GMP act as a prerequisite program for HACCP and are mostly specified in related legislation. GMP’s are commonly referred to as the minimum hygiene requirements that must be met to ensure their products are safe and of a high and consistent quality.

7. What is HACCP?

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), is an internationally recognised preventative risk-management tool which enables feed or food manufacturers to identify critical control points for microbiological (e.g. salmonella), chemical (e.g. pesticides), physical (e.g. glass) and allergenic (e.g. nuts) contaminants. Rather than traditional inspection and quality control procedures which concentrated on testing the end product to detect compliance or failure, HACCP proactively and systematically analyses for potential risks and identified appropriate control and monitoring systems, particularly those deemed critical to the safety of the product.

8. What is an audit?

Audits are typically conducted in order to assess the food business overall compliance to regulations and internal policies. The audit process involves documentation review and conduction of checks and interviews to confirm compliance with a standard.

9. What is food fraud?

Fraud in the food and feed chain is defined as food or feed products which have been deliberately placed on the market for financial gain, with the intention of deceiving the customer or consumer. The prevalence of fraud can be explained by the complex nature of our globalized food and feed supply chains and the economic motivation to provide cheaper food products.

10. What was the horsemeat scandal?

The horse meat scandal was a European-wide example of food fraud in which certain foods advertised as containing beef were found to contain undeclared or improperly declared horse meat. This is known as substitution fraud, whereby the high priced beef was replaced with low value horse meat. The horsemeat scandal was difficult to detect because those who are perpetrating the supply chain knew about the measures that were put into place and had ways to avoid them.

© QUB
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