NETHERLANDS - A call has been sent out to the Dutch government to get binding agreements with the Dutch meat processing sector to improve food safety standards.
A report from the Dutch Food Safety Board says that both the public and private enterprises in the meat sector must take action to improve food safety.
In particular the safety board has said that the private sector needs to change its working practices.
However, it says that because the private sector lacks to the self-regulating capacity and desire to organise themselves, the board has called on the State Secretary for Economic Affairs and the Minister for Health Welfare and Sport to intervene.
“Increased cooperation to ensure food safety is needed within the industry before the meat industry can obtain more responsibility,” the report says.
“While operators focus primarily of quality and price, food safety needs to take a more prominent place.”
The report says that every food business and each employee has to be aware that the products eventually end up on consumers’ plates and that they carry a responsibility for the safety of the products.
The safety board says that while assurance schemes can help to raise awareness of safety, they need not only to look at hygiene but also food fraud.
“Operators in the meat supply chain should verify whether the certificates actually offer a guarantee of the safety of meat,” the report says.
“There is a need for additional incentives for businesses to encourage cooperation on food safety and for the industry to correct a business that takes irresponsible risks.”
The food safety board has recommended that the government initiates a process with the supervisory authority to make binding agreements with the private sector firms to improve the structure of food safety standards.
This will include businesses warning each other about risky practices, ensuring traceability of products and establishing private certification with enforcement measures, specifically to address fraud.
The safety board has also called on the food authority NVWA to pay more attention to tackling food fraud and it has urged a complete separation of meat and livestock inspection and supervision.
The report also calls for cost effective charges for both meat and livestock inspection and supervisions and increased scope in the legislation to improve food safety.
The safety board has also called on the inspector general of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority to map out the risks of vulnerable links in the supply chain.
The Dutch meat industry body said that the report identifies bottlenecks in the meat supply chain and the supervision of food safety.
However it adds that the Dutch meat sector already produces safe meat of high quality.
However, it adds that “recent incidents are unacceptable and are taken very seriously but are not a measure of the entire sector”.
“Dutch meat is one of the most secure of the world, partly because the Netherlands is one of the leading manufacturers and exporters of meat,” COV said.
COV said it wants to see full transparency in the meat supply chain.
The full responsibility for this lies with the business community and the government takes this risk-based supervision.
It added that most of the recommendations from the report are already part of the Task Force on Food Trust and the Task force is working with the ministries, the NVWA and the private meat sector to strengthen the supply chain and promote confidence.
The COV added that it wants to see strengthening of transparency within the sector, a tightening up of monitoring and also increased training programmes to ensure awareness of food safety, quality and integrity.