Consumer group calls for global safety rethink

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hazard analysis and critical control points

The consolidation of food safety systems into a form of
"one-size-fits-all" regulation may undermine hygienic
manufacturing, warns consumer rights group Food and Water Watch.

Wenonah Hauter, group executive director, told FoodProductionDaily.com that current global safety regulations, while well intentioned, are best suited to the needs of large industrialised producers at the expense of smaller groups. The group expressed particular concerns over origin labelling and hygiene policies that it claims are creating a food safety divide between more industrialised manufacturers and smaller businesses. Despite these claims, health authorities in both the US and Europe believe the system is sufficiently flexible and yet concise enough to ensure that all manufacturers using the policies are meeting their commitments. The UK's Food standards Agency (FSA), which is responsible for assessing risk within the country's food industry, said that the HACCP regulations are designed to be flexible depending on the size of individual manufacturers to ensure no discrepancy in protection. However, using a recent US salmonellosis outbreak linked to tomatoes sourced from Mexico and Texas as an example, Hauter said that the scare served to highlight the need for global food makers and regulators to rethink how they manufacture. Global expansion ​As manufacturers increasingly to look to consolidate their operations through rapid expansion, both domestically and in emerging markets like Eastern Europe and Asia, the drive to cut costs while ensuring safety is proving difficult, added Hauter. Food and Water Watch claims that smaller manufacturers are struggling to keep up with systems such as the hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) principles, which are​ mandatory guidelines for food businesses in the US and EU.​ Taking meat processors as a case in point, Hauter suggested that current regulatory systems in many countries are serving to distort traditional hygiene mechanisms. "Smaller slaughterhouses in particular are looking for silver bullet solutions like using chlorine to clean their products to keep up with their multinational counterparts,"​ she said. Investment ​Food and Water Watch also rejected the argument that rapid investment into less developed markets automatically improved hygiene. Hauter said this was true when looking at markets such as Balkan states, which are moving towards being encompassed within the bloc and its respective food safety laws. "This is really a false argument as more traditional manufacturing processes such as cheese making are not always suited to HACCP and are therefore offered less control thorough regulation designed for major processors,"​ she stated. "Large companies often use mechanised plants with state-of-the art inspection regimes and technology."

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