Food safety issues in fresh produce: bacterial pathogens, viruses and pesticide residues indicated as major concerns by stakeholders in the fresh produce chain

Year of publication: 2012
Author(s): Van Boxstael S.; Habib I.; Jacxsens L.; De Vocht M.; Baert L.; Van de Perre E.; Rajkovic A.; Galvez F.L.; Sampers I.; Spanoghe P. & et al.
Appeared in: Food Control, vol.: 32, issue: 1, 190-197

Abstract

In January 2011, a workshop was organized by the EU FP7 Veg-i-Trade project to capture opinions of stakeholders on food safety issues in the global fresh produce supply chain. Food safety experts from various stakeholder types in the farm-to-fork chain were represented: farmer related organizations (n = 6), fresh produce processing and trading companies (n = 17), retail (n = 3), consumer organizations (n = 2), competent authorities (n = 7) and lastly research institutes and universities (n = 19). The experts who originated mainly from European countries (92.6%) were grouped in nine discussion groups per type of stakeholder and asked to rank food safety issues via a scoring approach according to perceived importance from their stakeholder type point of view. Also information sources for opinion making, appropriate food safety control measures and perceived contextual factors increasingly challenging governance of food safety in fresh produce were ranked according to perceived importance. Although some differences were noted between opinions of the different stakeholders, there was in general an agreement on the main priorities in food safety of fresh produce. Bacterial pathogens were overall considered to be the most important food safety issue for fresh produce, followed by foodborne viruses, pesticide residues and mycotoxins. Alert systems such as the European Commission's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) were considered as the most important source of information of food safety issues, followed by reports of international organizations (e.g. WHO, EFSA), legislative documents (e.g. EU legislation), national reports (e.g. on monitoring hazards, foodborne outbreaks) and exchange of information between people (informal contacts). Concerning the control measures, the application of good agricultural practices (GAP) was identified to be the most important control measure to assure the safety of fresh produce, followed by the application of good hygienic practices (GHP) and the certification of food safety management systems (FSMS). Increasing international trade and globalization were overall expected to have a large impact on food safety in fresh produce. Other contextual factors perceived to be important were the food safety policies by governments and the (lack of) food safety knowledge by consumers and other stakeholders of the fresh produce supply chain. Although the various stakeholder groups may conceive issues differently from their proper position in the fresh produce supply chain, no deep disagreements emerged. This type of workshop enhances interaction and risk communication between stakeholders and contributes to a better understanding of each other's concerns, constraints and interests to deal with the food safety of the increasingly complex and globalized fresh produce supply chain.

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