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Workshop Voedselveiligheid Veg-i-trade:

Belgium: Research delivers bacteria knowledge

Fresh Trade Belgium organised a workshop on Thursday the 8th of March together with the Universiteit Gent (University of Gent) about food safety in the fruit and vegetable chain. The afternoon was opened by Veerle van der Sypt of Fresh Trade Belgium. She welcomed over 40 visitors and said that during the workshop the state of affairs of the research project Veg-i-trade would be covered.

Veerle van der Sypt, Fresh Trade Belgium

Professor Mieke Uyttendaele of the University of Gent informed the public of the situation around the EHEC situation. She says a large part of the population has already forgotten the crisis. "But in the fruit and vegetable sector the shock is still there." In short she shed light on the EHEC outbreak and other cases of bacterial outbreaks in fruit and vegetables, such as that of listeria in melons in the US.

Professor Mieke Uyttendaele of Universiteit Gent

"We expect to learn more through research about the causes and preventing these kinds of cases, but the possibility remains that something like this will happen again in the future."

Mieke indicated that there is more and more awareness and action is taken in the area of food safety, such as at EFSA and the European Commission. She also emphasised that there is still a lot of uncertainty in various areas in different parts of the world. "The lists with stereotypes of the various groups vary, but have similarities. The difficult thing is to find the 'right' bacteria out of them. That's why this research takes up so much time and accuracy."

Veg-i-trade is busy with various researches in the whole chain, at home and abroad, and is also teaching preventative measures to 'prevent' an outbreak. "There are still a lot of questions", says Mieke. "And we're working on answering them. We keep investing in this, We need the help and interaction of companies from the fruit and vegetable sector for this." During the workshop there was also a discussion on the fact that there is still so much uncertainty in the area of food safety and decontamination.

Other researchers from the University of Gent had their say about how things were going. Sam van Haute spoke about the microbial dangers in fruits and vegetables through water. "Water quality is often a cause of bacterial outbreak, It's a real danger", he indicated. He also named some examples in which the cause was found in irrigation water. "Because water is becoming rarer and more expensive, companies are looking for alternatives to (re)use water. This often doesn't benefit the quality. This happens to growers as well as in the processing industry. Water can be treated in various ways to reuse it, but different companies decide to do different things."

Researchers from UVGent: Stefanie Delbeke and Sam van Haute

Researcher Stefanie Belbeke is busy with her doctoral in the area of sampling plants. "At the moment I'm working on a case microbiology strawberries and basil. It was chosen because both product have little information concerning the risks and controlling microbiological dangers." She described her project and explained where she's going to take samples. "This will happen in the whole and chain and this is how we're trying to gain insight in hygiene and the safety level of products and processes. This will take place during cultivation, processing, and trade. Taking samples can help validate the planning of quality care systems and identifying obstacles in controlling food safety."

Researcher Ilse Delcour

Ilse Delcour presented on the prioritisation in sampling and analysis of pesticide residue. She spoke about it on all three levels: government, sectoral and company. "There are various parameters, such as origin, product risk and quality assurance. An indication should be made at each company of how important which parameter is, how the research should be down and what risks there are."

Dr. Liesbeth Jacxsens of UVGent

At the end of the workshop the visitors received a kind of 'test', with which they could analyse how far they were in the area of food safety. They were helped in this by Liesbeth Jacxsens and the other researchers. "By using a diagnostic instrument companies can gain insight into their situation and we will measure the elements and give them the score. This way they can all evaluate their current system. After completion companies receive a situation sketch," There are three versions available of the diagnostic instrument: for the agriculture, processing and trade.

In Nederland vindt op 16 maart een gelijksoortige workshop plaats.

Publication date: 3/13/2012


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