This week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) held a two-day summit on food safety and healthy diets to mark its fifth anniversary. David Haworth went to Brussels to hear some 500 scientists and food industry experts debate critical issues ranging from nanotechnology to additives and from labeling to food-borne infections.
“Food safety isn’t rocket science. One of the biggest challenges we face is that posed by poor training and the consequent lack of hygiene in the handling of food from street vendors upwards. Our advice should help consumers make better choices.” – Professor Patrick Wall, EFSA chairman.
“New and emerging problems are identified with regularity; as a result of microbial change, of changing patterns of production and trade, and the complex ecologies in which we produce and process the food we eat.” – Robert Tauxe, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, US
“It can be argued that many of the difficulties faced nowadays by society in maintaining a safe food supply can be effectively addressed by more science or, preferably, better science.” – Professor Xavier Malcata, College of Biotechnology, Portuguese Catholic University.
“The opportunity to access healthier diets and their availability is not equal to all in the population.” – Alan Jackson, Institute of Human Nutrition, Southampton.
“Apart from the potential of providing pleasurable sensations and social contact, nutrition is essential for life and health but can, on the other side, bear considerable risks for health and contribute to the development of diseases and even shorten life.” – Professor Dr Hildegard Przyrembel, vice-chair of the EFSA panel on dietetics, nutrition and allergies.
“Nitrates in vegetables: should we eat our greens?” – Professor Andrew Cockburn, University of Newcastle.
“Overdosing of food is one of the major problems in food safety. As we all know, the dose makes the poison.” – Professor Dr Wolfgang Dekant, University of Würzburg, Germany.
“While basic mechanisms of risk perception are transcultural, fear and outrage associated with food and eating vary considerably in their object, form and intensity.” – Claude Fischler, School of Social Sciences, France.
“Nanotechnology is small. Small is new. New is unpredictable.” – Anthony Hardy, Central Science Laboratory, UK.
“Growth in flexible packaging was expected to rise up to 35% between 2001 and 2004. In fact such growth was more limited than expected. The use of flexible packaging in food packaging in particular didn’t meet the forecast increase.” – Dr Dario Dainelli, Sealed Air Corporation, Italy.
“In smoked products, with their very complex compounds, it’s difficult to make an assessment between the effect of any single ingredient.” – Karl-Heinz Engel, Technical University, Munich.
“Novel whole foods and food ingredients may appear through the importation of new products, the introduction of a new species as a food source, the use of new processing techniques or changes in the genetic make-up of microorganisms, plants and animals from which foods are derived.” – William Yan, Microbiological Evaluation Division Food Directorate, Health Canada.
“The illegal presence of a number of dyes – such as Sudan 1-1V, Para Red, Rhodamine B and Orange 11 – was particularly in a number of spices, such as chili powder, curry powder and products containing them.” – John Larsen, National Food Institute, Denmark.
“Few issues are as central to our lives as the safety of the food we enjoy each day. As European citizens, we are accustomed to high levels of consumer protection in food safety thanks to the efforts of all actors in the food chain from farmers, to manufacturers and retailers. Each has its own important role to play in the EU food safety system.” – Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, EFSA executive director.