EU group stresses food safety focus

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety Security Food

SAFE consortium urges food safety importance
SAFE consortium urges food safety importance
A group of European research organisations have stressed the importance of food safety by identifying knowledge gaps and areas which require more focus in response to concerns that the issue is slipping down the agenda.

The consortium said a continued emphasis needs to be put on food safety in Horizon 2020 but an early draft of the document has it embedded into the areas of health and well-being and food security, rather than being mentioned as an area in its own right.

They stressed there should be attention for key food safety-relevant research priorities for the near future and presented them in a vision document.

The European Association for Food Safety, SAFE consortium unveiled the “Keeping food safety on the agenda​” document at its AGM last week.

Five areas of research presented are: the citizen and food safety; microbiological hazards and spoilage organisms; chemical, biological and physical hazards, including environmental contaminants; tools for assessing and managing risks in the food chain and technologies for making foods safe and increasing shelf life.

Areas of research

Begoña Pérez Villarreal, the chair of the SAFE consortium executive board, said the vision document aimed to address the areas of food safety from now through to 2020.

“We wanted to point out the first draft of the Horizon 2020 document due by the end of this year or early 2014, we cannot see food safety as clearly as it used to be,” ​she told

“Food safety is very important and relevant for the European sector and we wanted to justify why it shouldn’t move down in the debate.”

She said other topics such as sustainability, security and innovation had become more “sexy​” topics.

“Any topic, sustainability, security and innovation has to have food safety as a basis, as an accompanying part of all issues.

“Some people take it for granted, but this is not true, we need to maintain and adapt to new expectations and innovations.”

Members of the consortium include NOFIMA (Norway), SIK (Sweden), Agroscope (Switzerland), TNO (The Netherlands) and IRTA (Spain).

Issues of more attention

The paper identifies some issues that should be given more attention such as preservation, mitigation, and detection and monitoring technologies.

Under preservation and mitigation, novel technologies such as high pressure, microwave techniques, pulsed light atmospheric cold plasma are cited alongside the occurrence and persistence of pathogens, chemical and biological contaminants and functionality of ingredients.

Detection and monitoring involves intelligent packaging, diagnostic and screening methodologies for chemical and microbiological hazards and alternative techniques to replace sodium hypochlorite in direct contact with food and avoid formation of potentially carcinogenic by-products such as trihalometanes.

Knowledge gaps

There are still several critical gaps in knowledge and understanding of microbial food safety and stability that interfere with production of safe food and water with extended shelf life, it said.

The risk assessment and management of chemicals needs to consider the entire food chain, giving attention to main sources of contamination: agricultural practice, environmental and food processing.

Migration from food packaging also needs attention as the possibility of real risk is recognised and, although materials are already strictly controlled, much still needs to be defined.

When asked about the end aim, she said: “We hope the document is taken into account by decision makers and those dealing with the programming for research. It is a global issue and needs to be tackled from different points of view, with not just industry or consumers’ point of view taken into consideration, all stakeholders should be involved.”

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