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ANUGA FOODTEC - Industry Must Communicate Food Safety

28 March 2012

GERMANY - Communication and openness over food safety issues are essential in gaining, retaining and maintaining consumer confidence, writes Chris Harris from Anuga FoodTec in Cologne.

Speaking at a special seminar on food safety issues, Prof Ulrich Nöhle from the Technical University of Braunschweig said that in future the essence of food safety will be communication.

He said that a lot of food safety issues were the result of misconceptions by the consumer and exaggerated reports in the media.

The failure of the food industry to respond to complaints and concerns and to be open with consumers has increased the harm that is done in food safety scares.

Dr Nöhle added that the media also had a role to play in not reporting what is not proven and by hurrying to press without knowing all the scientific facts.

The image of the meat and food industry had formulated in the minds of consumers fears over production methods and concerns that food could be contaminated with antibiotics, dioxins, PCBs and even heavy metals.

Below these consumer concerns in the list of worries expressed by consumers were pathogens such as salmonella, e.coli and campylobacter.

"But the danger in food is from pathogenic micro-organisms and not contaminants," said Prof Nöhle.

However, he said that the food industry had not helped itself by marketing its products as quaint, traditional and homespun and disguising the modern industrial methods that are now generally employed to produce food.

A 2010 European Food Safety Authority Euro Barometer showed that consumers are more afraid of food than they are of car accidents.

He said the reality is that there is a difficulty in communicating within the industry, but the industry has to learn to communicate.

He warned that new social media can spread consumer concerns far more quickly than in the past and without communication and openness over food safety issues, the industry risks damaging criticism from pressure groups.

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