OP’ED BY SEBASTIEN BOSSARD / WORLD FOOD SAFETY DAY
7 June, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped put the media spotlight on the importance of implementing protective and preventive measures on a global scale to stop the spread of a virus. This welcome public awareness provides us collectively with a window of opportunity to strengthen our risk management capabilities in order to address another major public health challenge: food safety. Integrated and multi-modal strategies are essential to meet consumer expectations and provide sustainable and effective solutions to an increasingly complex issue.
7th of June 2021 : World Food Safety Day
« The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.»
More than 420,000 deaths are caused each year by pathogenic contamination of food, and some 600 million people, or nearly one in ten worldwide, suffer each year from more than 200 diseases (from diarrhea to cancer) linked to the consumption of unsuitable food containing viruses, bacteria or parasites. Epidemic outbreaks are frequent and food alerts are multiplying, with almost daily product withdrawals and recalls in many countries, which unfortunately do not prevent sometimes dramatic consequences.
Foodborne diseases hamper socio-economic development by placing heavy demands on health care systems, and by damaging national economies, tourism and trade. They also undermine consumer confidence, as food quality and health issues are of primary concern to consumers. The European Commission estimates that unsafe food costs low-income countries about $110 billion a year in lost productivity and health costs.
Significant progress has been made in recent years at the initiative of the main international institutions – WHO, FAO, OIE, WTO – to implement joint cross-cutting policies, standardize food production procedures and strengthen the regulatory arsenal for risk prevention and management.
The latest OneHealth and Prezode proposals give us good hope for the implementation of an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach, which takes into account the interconnections between human and animal health, consumer demands for transparency and traceability, and the sustainable use of resources, especially water. The ability to cooperate and the active participation of all parties -processors, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of the consumer, food, and beverage industry- will be crucial to implement efficient preventive and educational strategies and protect the entire food chain.
Industry players are part of the solution. Changing demands for product diversification, coupled with the increasing interconnection of all business segments, have contributed to the growing complexity of the global food chain and its regulatory arsenal. Processors have made significant efforts by adopting ISO or HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) certification measures. The specifications negotiated with suppliers and distributors require more and more traceability measures. It is in the interest of all, public authorities, health authorities and private actors to cooperate in good understanding around a common objective: to anticipate and eventually guarantee that some local incidents do not turn into an international emergency.
Cookie-cutter approach does not work anymore
Beyond the necessary cooperation and connection between all actors, it is now essential to favor a multi-modal approach in terms of deployment strategy of solutions, which too often depends on regulatory and commercial considerations, less on its virtuous impact on public health. To intervene effectively at all levels of the food chain (production, handling, storage, processing and distribution), we collectively have no choice but to take into account the complexity of regional and local characteristics. As with the issue of anti-microbial resistance (AMR), which has been elevated to a health emergency by the WHO, it is becoming increasingly clear that a “one size fits all” approach is not the answer to the health security challenges of our time.
Consumers expect to be protected from the full range of risks along the food chain. This protection will only be guaranteed if all links in the food chain function in an integrated manner and if food control and prevention systems take into account each one of these links. Farmers, producers, importers/exporters, processors and distributors do not necessarily have the same needs within the same geographical area. In the same vein, priority must be given to sanitary responses that favor prevention over cure. Pragmatic, alternative and sustainable solutions exist and can be deployed in a relevant way according to geographical areas to take into account regional and local specificities.
Kersia has chosen this multi-modal approach since its creation, through the successful integration of complementary skills and expertise of international specialists in food safety solutions. This privileged position, as close as possible to the needs of all the players in the food chain, gives our group an important mission to contribute, alongside all the stakeholders, to meeting this public health challenge on a global level. As an industrial expert, a multidisciplinary specialist in the food chain, we intend to fully assume this responsibility in order to reduce the risks of zoonotic incidents, build resilient and adapted ecosystems, respond to the local and specific needs of all and protect biodiversity and populations.
CEO of Kersia
KERSIA // RIVACOM
Mathilde ROGER [email protected] – + 33 6 89 62 47 67