Netherlands: Food safety in the wake of EHEC outbreak

A year after the EHEC outbreak, food safety concerns are on everybody’s agenda. The epidemic was initially blamed on cucumbers, tomatoes, even sprouts. Eventually, the culprit turned out to be sprouted seeds from Egypt, containing an E. coli variety. The particular strain caused, even in minute traces, kidney failure and led to some casualties.

A year later EU legislation is being modified (EG 2073). Specifications on microbiology are firmly in place. But in spite of these enhanced regulations, discretion is still advised.

The industry is especially aware of micro-organisms (pathogens) causing illness. But other factors, like food spoilage, are also a risk. The expiration date is continuously prolonged in efforts to sell products, but if the storage temperature fluctuates somewhere in the chain, then the probability of decay is ever present. Then, of course, there’s the use of pesticides. Tools to measure residue pesticides, the Maximum Residue Limits (MRL), don’t always suffice.

Another issue is also under scrutiny: the packaging. Food contact materials are tested more often to see if there’s any danger of contamination by packing materials. Not until last year were national policies (in which each country had its own guidelines) converted to EU legislation.

In short, food safety is an on-going concern that merits the attention of the entire industry.

SGS Nederland

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