EU urged to recognise authenticity progress by food operators

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Euro Coop. The event was held last week in Brussels
Picture: Euro Coop. The event was held last week in Brussels

Related tags European union

Recommendations on how the public and private sector can promote integrity and authenticity in the food chain have been made at a conference.

Food operators also called on the EU Commission and national authorities to recognise private initiatives in the area.

The conference was organised by CELCAA (the European Liaison Committee for Agricultural and Agri-Food Trade), Euro Coop and L'Union Européenne du Commerce du Bétail et des Métiers de la Viande (UECBV) and hosted by DG SANTE in Brussels.

It was a follow-up to the 2012 Conference on ‘Managing the growing challenge of food crime’ and the 2014 event from the Italian presidency on ‘food fraud’.

Who is CELCAA?

CELCAA is the EU umbrella association representing organisations covering trade in areas including cereals, grains, oils and fats, olive oil, agro-supply, animal feed, wine, meat and meat products, dairy and dairy products, eggs and egg products, poultry and game, sugar, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables spices.

More than 100 participants from competent authorities, official laboratories, the European Commission, food businesses including trading companies and consumers’ organisations, attended the event.

Meeting outcomes

Food operators were encouraged to continue private initiatives to promote integrity and authenticity such as putting in place laboratory techniques while the Commission and national authorities were urged to recognise such work.

They were also invited to be more transparent so consumers can visualise and understand production processes.

Member States and the Commission should continue to ensure correct enforcement of the legislation and strengthening sanctions when applicable.

Who is Euro Coop?

Euro Coop is the voice of the co-operative retailers in Europe. Our associations brings together the national associations of consumer co-operatives in 19 European countries, employing 500,000 citizens across Europe, operating 36,000 stores, which serve 32 million consumer-members daily.

The European Commission should develop protocols to share information with third countries, outside member states.

Bernard van Goethem, DG SANTE director for crisis management in food, animals and plants, said the Official Control Regulation recently endorsed by COREPER​ is a positive step.

“It will not only enable competent authorities to modernise and strengthen their controls against fraudulent practices (for example unannounced official controls; reinforced rules on administrative assistance and cooperation; reinforcement of rules on financial penalties) but the Commission will also be able to establish a new EU Reference center for food authenticity and integrity.”

Panel sessions and case studies

Panel sessions included presentations on European policy actions targeting counterfeit products; European and Member States’ national policies and actions to promote food integrity; consumers’ expectations and the contribution of technical analysis.

These were concluded by three case studies, where food operators could explain internal processes guaranteeing integrity and authenticity of their products.

Who is UECBV?

UECBV is the mouthpiece of national federations representing livestock markets, livestock traders (cattle, horses, sheep, pigs), meat traders (beef, horse meat, sheep meat, pig meat), and the meat industry (slaughterhouses, cutting plants, meat preparation plants). It counts 55 national or regional federations in 24 of the 28 Member States of the European Union, but also in Morocco, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey.

Euro Coop's presentation covered initiatives of consumer co-operatives in authenticity and integrity, and highlighted the importance of the co-operative model. 

Massimo Bongiovanni, Euro Coop's president, said technology in all its manifestations enables a better relationship among operators in the industry and between distribution and customers.

“Many are the best practices that cooperatives have been putting in place throughout Europe on issues such as transparency, information, prevention and controls,” ​he said.

“These practices are necessary to increase the collective responsibility as a common good for our European citizens, for producers and distributors and to build quality barriers aimed at guaranteeing consumers safety instead of promoting a rather irrelevant protectionism.”

Europol presented on Operation Opson results, Andy Morling talked about the FSA food crime unit and Professor Chris Elliott on the EU Food Integrity project.

Jos Goebbels, VP of UECBV and moderator of the conference, said: “Awareness of food operators to put internal systems in place to guarantee food integrity and authenticity is there and increasing. Together with an adapted communication explaining these procedures will guarantee trust of consumers in their products.”

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