Traceability of food products - Introduction
At one time the population fed on products obtained at home (chicken coop, vegetable garden, etc.) or purchased close to home (by the farmer). Today foods are purchased in shops and supermarkets, with many intermediate steps from the producer to the final consumer, making it difficult to trace the origin of the product.
The requests from the consumer regarding the origin and quality of the food are considerably considerably in recent years, also following the many scandals (mad cow, dioxin meat) which have affected the livestock sector in particular. This was a stimulus to legislation in this field.
In 1993 the community directive 93/43 was published which involved companies with the best known self-control manuals such as lHACCP. This directive aimed to change the mentality of the agri-food system, moving from legislation based on repression to one based on the responsibility of the food operator (from inspection and controls - and the consequent penalties, to risk prevention through the control of the critical points of the production process) Legislative Decree 155/97 provides for the batch number: that is, we begin to reflect on the importance of knowing the history and not only the characteristics of the final product. Perhaps HACCP was considered sufficient to prevent food risks, but it is the daily news to let us know that this is not the case. LUE has chosen a more centralized line: no longer a directive but a regulation, a legislative instrument immediately in force throughout the Community (the regulation enters into force with the transposition through a specific national law).
On January 28, 2002, regulation no. 178 which establishes the principles and requirements of food law. It comes into force on January 1, 2005.
EC Regulation n. 178 of 2002
With this intervention the European Union:
- aims to standardize food safety legislation between the various EU member countries;
- establishes the European Food Safety Agency based in Parma (Italy);
- defines some principles such as the precautionary principle, the importance of information accompanying food, consumer rights, finally defines a procedure: Traceability (ability to reconstitute the path of a food).
The regulations define the objectives of Community policy:
- a high level of protection of life and human health;
- protection of consumer interests;
- give a basis to allow consumers to make informed choices.
More specifically, the prevention of fraudulent or deceptive practices, adulterations and any type of practice capable of misleading the consumer is proposed.
Allart. 7 paragraph 1 defines the Precautionary Principle: If, in specific circumstances following an evaluation of the available information, the possibility of harmful effects on health is identified, but a situation of scientific uncertainty remains, measures can be taken Provisional risk management to guarantee the high level of health protection that the Community pursues .... It seems to refer expressly to GMO raw materials, but it is valid whenever the full health of a product or raw materials cannot be demonstrated based on scientific assessments.
Article 11 defines that imported food and feed must also comply with the provisions of Community food law, and therefore also this regulation and therefore also traceability.
Hazardous foods are defined (art.14): if they are harmful to health, if they are unsuitable for human consumption. It is established that to determine whether a food is at risk, we evaluate:
- the normal conditions of use of the food;
- the information made available to the consumer, including the information on the label and other information generally accessible to the consumer on how to avoid specific harmful effects on health caused by a food or category of food.
The importance of information is therefore strengthened and two of its characteristics are defined: information must be accessible and must be able to prevent specific harmful effects.
It is defined that to determine whether a food is harmful to health, the following are evaluated:
- the immediate, short-term, long-term effects on descendants (in technical terms acute and chronic toxicity, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity);
- the cumulative toxic effects (another novelty of the Community legislation);
particular sensitivity, from the point of view of health, of a specific category of consumers, in the event that the food is destined for it (another novelty of the Community legislation).
It is established that to determine whether a food is unfit for human consumption, the following parameters are assessed: contamination from external material, putrefaction, deterioration, decomposition.
Article 16 states that ... labeling, advertising and presentation of food and feed, including their shape, appearance, or packaging, the packaging materials used, ... and the information made available on them through any means, should not mislead consumers.
Finally, traceability is defined (art.3 point 15) and the procedures to implement it (art.18): the possibility of reconstructing and following the path of a food, feed, animal destined for food production or a substance destined or apt to become part of a food through all the phases of production, transformation and distribution.
Subjects: operators in the food sector.
Object: the supply chain in all its phases (production, transformation, distribution).
Objectives: identify who supplied food, feed, any substance, destined to become part of a food or feed; identify to whom their products have been supplied.
Means: systems and procedures that make it possible to make the relevant information available to the competent authorities who request it; identification procedures (food and feed that is placed on the Community market must be labeled or identified to facilitate traceability, by means of relevant documentation or information).
Traceability will be by product; it will have to define in a certain way the origin of the raw materials, identifying unequivocally not only the places but also the land from which they come.
Traceability and Traceability
We can define traceability as a tool that allows you to follow a product in the supply chain, identify its origin, collect especially qualifying information, to be highlighted with brands, labels or certifications. It is a voluntary intervention where the subjects themselves of this form of self-control define its characteristics.
By traceability we can mean instead the tool that implements precise provisions on food safety and therefore satisfies well-defined parameters, exclusively of a healthy nature, homogeneous at Community level.
The precautionary principle is the heart of the regulation and therefore the form in which it will be implemented will be representative of the European food safety model. The European Agency has already made its choices (it wants to give security) and it is therefore for rigorous implementation: the lack of the necessary information is sufficient to demonstrate that a food (or feed, or one of the raw materials that compose it) is healthy to suspend it provisional marketing within the EU with immediate withdrawal from the market for products already distributed.
Even if the regulation does not talk about HACCP, it is an essential tool for full implementation: if with Traceability we have the management of the risks that make food harmful to health, for the management of the risks that make food products unfit for consumption human HACCP is essential.
by LAgrotecnico today - Andrea Casetta, Paolo Lorenzo Graziano