June 7th was the World Food Safety Day.
Let’s get a better understanding of what “food safety” means and let’s try to do it according to the community law currently in force: first of all, the EC Regulation 178/2002, which establishes the general principles and requirements of food law, establishes the European Food Safety Authority and establishes the procedures in the field of food safety.
The subject is vast, technical and perhaps not suitable to be covered here. However we think that some elements should be at least mentioned, if not enough to please some refined “keyboard warrior jurists”, at least to intrigue some receptive citizens.
Let’s start without saying too much: if a food is not safe, whoever eats it is at risk of getting sick. It may seem trivial, but perhaps it is important to reiterate that behind the labeling and the many protocols to be respected during production there is nothing but the protection of public health.
According to a recent estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), every year about 600 million people fall ill after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, toxins, or chemical agents. Of those 600 million, more than 400,000 die.
That’s a lot, too many, and keep in mind that whole areas of the world are unable to provide reliable data to come up with true statistics.
First of all, Regulation 178 clarifies the intent of the policy of which it is an expression: to guarantee the free movement of safe food to ensure the health of European citizens and the internal market. An objective pursued by subscribing to common standards for all member states.
Another staple of EU food policy, of which it is important to be aware, is the precautionary principle.
This is basically a strategy for managing environmental and public health risks. But what does this principle establish?
Easy: if there is not enough data to be able to exclude the presence of hazards on a given issue, measures are taken anyway, in order to counteract the possible consequences, to act as if they were there.
In short, just to be on the safe side, you prepare for the worst.
But who is in charge of analyzing the possible risks involved? Have you ever heard of EFSA?
EFSA is the European Food Safety Authority, a body based in Parma, Italy, established by Regulation 178/2002.
Inside are the people wearing lab coats, the scientists who calculate just how risky what we decide to put in our mouths is for our health.
In practice, they study, research, and provide independent opinions to the European Union and to the member states that request them.
A few months ago, EFSA gave the green light for the consumption of Tenebrio molitor larvae establishing, after research that has lasted a few years, that their consumption does not pose any risk to human health.
Good to know, isn’t it?
These are just food safety words, which might or might not be actually useful, however we wanted to mention a couple of points.
For those who want to know more about this topic, EFSA website is full of interesting things to click on: articles, studies and opinions; have a look if you want.
The message we would like to get across is this: get it out of your head that obtaining a label is a simple thing.
Innovation in food is complex and full of risky business.
We are fine with it, no problems, little controversy and a lot of work, when you have faith in a project, these are not the obstacles that scare you.