Pathogens, foodborne viruses and pesticide residues are the three most important concerns for the safety of fresh produce, according to the results of a European workshop.
The workshop, which involved 54 people from nine countries, also ranked mycotoxins and process contaminants as concerns.
S. van Boxstael et al discussed the findings of the workshop, held as part of the EU project VEG-I-TRADE, in the Journal of Food Control.
“The obtained information within our study gives insight into the current food safety priorities and challenges of the fresh produce chain and provided an opportunity to exchange opinions between various stakeholders of the fresh produce chain with a focus on the EU situation,” said the authors.
The EU project, which concludes in 2014, aims to mitigate the problems associated with food safety as the breadth of supply increases from local, to national to an international scale.
A common concern raised was the estimated health risks of the issues/hazards for the consumer and potential economic implications, such as recall costs or decrease in sales in case of foodborne disease outbreaks reported in the media, said the researchers.
The application of good agricultural practices (GAP) emerged as the main control measure to control food safety hazards within the fresh produce supply chain.
Good hygienic practices (GHP) was found to be the second most important measure and certified food safety management systems (FSMS) was ranked in the third place.
The demand of consumers as a pressure on food safety was also identified as important, reported the researchers.
Participants were farmer related organizations, fresh produce processing and trading companies, retail, consumer organizations, competent authorities and research institutes and universities.
Key alert methods
Alert systems were identified as the most important information source for the latest news on food safety, followed by international reports from organisations such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) but also to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Legislative documents (e.g. EU legislation), national reports on monitoring hazards, foodborne outbreaks and exchanging of information between people, were also flagged in the workshop.
Increasing international trade and globalization were expected to have a large impact on food safety in fresh produce, with government policy and food safety knowledge from consumers and other stakeholders in the supply chain also cited as key issues.
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.11.038
“Food safety issues in fresh produce: Bacterial pathogens, viruses and pesticide residues indicated as major concerns by stakeholders in the fresh produce chain”
Authors: S. Van Boxstael, I. Habib, L. Jacxsens, M. De Vocht, L. Baert, E. Van De Perre, A. Rajkovic, F. Lopez-Galvez, I. Sampers, P. Spanoghe, B. De Meulenaer, M. Uyttendaele