Food safety is failing? New deaths in Netherlands. Some reflections.

Every day we can read about new outbreaks of listeria, salmonella or E.coli.

The 4 deaths in the recent listeria outbreak, as well as many other cases, bring me to reflect on the effectiveness of our food safety regulations.

The E.U. situation is far better compared to U.S., but just today we can read about another Salmonella outbreak in Netherlands.  At least 950 people are now known to have fallen ill because of Salmonella Thompson linked to salmon. Three elderly victims have died.

In 2011, it took months to understand the origin of the dioxin crisis in Germany, with incalculable harm for the Spanish cucumbers or bean sprouts market, accused of being the cause of the epidemic.

The RASFF system is often activated in Italy for phenomena that have no relevance to public health (such as an episodic foreign object), but is not able to protect ourselves from the greatest dangers, as they are not all our laws on food safety.

The EU is regulating even the smallest details regarding food matters, which is every day more complicated and involves more and more burdens for food business operators.

Is this the best approach? Or maybe is necessary a rethink?

If the food business operator has the responsibility to take action and to cooperate with the Authorities in case of risk to human health, the Authority should not have the responsibility to evaluate when is really necessary to activate the RASFF and to order withdrawals from the market?

At least in Italy, often the activation of RASFF seems to be an automatic mechanism, not based on a scientific founded risk analysis, and this is causing relevant damages to food companies.

The key is the responsibility to make tough decisions…but on both sides.

Another important aspect is certainly the swiftness, and in relation to this the RASFF system is certainly effective.

The last and perhaps not as widely considered problem is the management of information. Our world is flooded with information, is inundated with laws and in this ocean of data is not always easy to identify the truly relevant information and to use the resources to contain the really serious situations.

Our world is hungry for simplification and rationalization of information.

Why all our computers run with the Windows system (at least until some years ago)? Why Apple’s market capitalization would fly to 623 million dollars? Why Steve Jobs will be the guru of new generations of entrepreneurs?

Just one word, simplification.


One thought on “Food safety is failing? New deaths in Netherlands. Some reflections.

  1. I think you might like the following: Where/when bullshit gets in the way of the important the important does not get done! (and when I use the word bullshit I am referring to the literature on the subject written by academics – example Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit and James Bellini and Kati St Clair’s The Bullshit Factor – The Truth Abut Corporate Disguises, Lies and Denial as well as many other books and papers)


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