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Weekly Overview: Food Safety Issues in the Headlines

07 April 2014

GLOBAL - Food safety issues affecting the pig sector have been in discussion in the last week in the World Trade Organization, in the Netherlands and in the wider European Union, writes Jackie Linden. There are signs that the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) situation in the US may be easing, while Brazil has taken new measures to keep the virus out of the country.

World Trade Organization talks over an agricultural trade deal have hit another stumbling block as one of the negotiating committees failed to reach agreement over a definition for private standards for food safety and animal and plant health.

When the committee met recently, it also deferred a decision on a mediation procedure aimed to avoid legal disputes.

Both issues have been discussed for several years in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee and countries working on compromises had thought that their efforts were close to producing a solution.

A report from the Dutch Food Safety Board says that both the public and private enterprises in the meat sector must take action to improve food safety in the Netherlands.

In particular, the safety board says, the private sector needs to change its working practices.

However, the board says, the private sector lacks self-regulating capacity and the desire to organise itself. As a result, the board has called on the State Secretary for Economic Affairs and the Minister for Health, Welfare and Sport to intervene.

The horse meat scandal or another case of illegal adulteration of food products could easily occur again, according to a panel discussion at a recent conference in the UK.

Speaking at the Foodex exhibition, a panel of experts from across the meat and food industry including consumer groups and legal watchdogs concluded that food products could be adulterated and contaminated if people within the industry were determined to cut corners and commit criminal acts.

Former chairman of the Food Standards Agency and former agriculture minister, Jeff Rooker, said that although the horse meat scandal was considered an authenticity issue and not a food safety issue, it should have been regarded as a question of food safety because no one knew where the horse meat that contaminated the products had come from and how it had been processed and slaughtered.

EU-based organisation, ASForce, has published a four-page leaflet on African Swine Fever, urging those in the pig sector to look out for the signs of this disease. The leaflet is available to download in in eight languages.

On Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea, the pace of increase in cases in the US appears to be slowing down, while the virus has been found in a new area of Manitoba in Canada. The Brazilian industry has called for government support to keep the disease out of the country and new quarantine facilities are being set up for imported pigs.

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock

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