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UNECE symposium discusses food safety and quality challenges in the meat sector

Public and private food safety standards and management systems interact with complicated international supply chains to impact the meat industry. In order to help ensure food safety and quality at affordable prices, the public and the private sector need to better cooperate. In order to discuss how this might be done, UNECE convened its second international symposium on Meat (public meats/meets private) on 28 September.

All the speakers and the audience emphasized that food safety was a shared responsibility and not a competitive advantage of some over others. All public and private actors, be they national or international and no matter where they are positioned along the supply chain, have an equal interest in ensuring food safety at all times and no matter where. Today, a tiny incidence on one side of the globe can destroy consumer confidence worldwide. All speakers repeatedly recalled the devastating effect the BSE crisis had and continues to have on the whole meat industry and on consumers. Similarly, the recent horse-meat scandal, which for the first time drew consumers’ attention to food fraud, will have a long-lingering impact on us all. 

Supply chains have become more and more sophisticated over time, they have become efficient and global and they involve many actors. It is, therefore, in the interest of both large and small companies to share solutions for food safety, and imperative for food safety standards to remain science-based. There is a strong need for more cooperation between all public and private sector parties involved. Today, no single agency or actor can take on alone the issue of setting adequate standards, monitoring their use and enforcing them. In addition, more efforts are needed to reduce the auditing and certification burden, especially for the smaller farms or companies, for example, through benchmarking processes.  The debate about the co-existence or the complementarity between public and private food safety and quality standards will go on in the coming years and there will certainly be a demand for both. In the meantime, both the public and private sectors need to look outwards and work towards increased dialogue and harmonization.

The symposium’s positive spirit was successfully carried over into the annual session of the UNECE Specialized Section on Standardization of Meat, which for the first time decided to cross- reference Codex Alimentarius Standards in its meat cut standards and to promote the UNECE standards at the 2017 session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

High-level speakers at the Symposium included Veronique Discours-Buhot, Director of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) of the Consumer Goods Forum; Dr. Angela Siemens, Vice-President, Food Safety, Quality and Regulatory at Cargill; and Tom Heilandt, Secretary of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Participants included representatives from major international corporations as well as international organizations present in Geneva such at WTO, ITC, ISO and others.

 For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=40070#/