Food safety checks designed to prevent contamination are making it difficult for smaller businesses to compete against larger rivals, according to reports.

A study report by The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) and seen by Reuters said producers, processors and exporters in developing states were "struggling to cope" with new and overlapping requirements.

The report for a meeting next week of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint WHO and FAO body on food safety, said "industry moves to introduce voluntary rules on top of government oversight had produced mixed results".

Past food recalls have included salmonella in peanuts, pistachios, mayonnaise, alfalfa sprouts and canola meal in the US and Canada, as well as the melamine scandal in China, which resulted in the country tightening its oversight.

The report stated that the biggest constraints were being felt in poorer nations and said that "small players" may need assistance to avoid being "squeezed out of the market by the drive to sanitize the food chain".