The eighth round of meetings between TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) stakeholders ended in Brussels today. Four work groups investigating stronger trade agreements between the USA and Europe tackled various issues, all of which focused on convergence and integration policies for food quality standards, safety standards and environmental safeguards between the two areas.
The nature of the negotiations has been subject to massive criticism, especially in the light of the physiological differences between the two markets in question, mainly involving food safety standards. Eurocarne Post spoke with Nicolò Cinotti, Health of the Technical Health Area of Unaitalia, the National Union of Agro-Food Supply Chains in the poultry sector, with a special focus on the new procedures to be applied to reduce cases of Salmonella contamination.
“To understand the relationship between the two different systems applied in the two continents, we can start right off from what is happening in the poultry sector. Here, these new standards,” Cinotti explained, “arise from the fact that microbiological parameters in the United States were applicable to chicken 'as such', performed before portioning and subsequent processing - but not to portioned or processed products, which represent about 80% of the US poultry market. In Europe, however, ever since the introduction of the 'Hygiene Package' in 2004 (the pillar of EU regulations concerning food safety), microbiological parameters were immediately identified for all types of product.”
So, the differences between European and US approaches to food safety are clear. “Our approach involves the entire supply chain in every food sector,” Unaitalia's expert explains, “by identifying the Food Business Operator as being responsible for product hygiene from field to table, defining a series of obligations and controls to ensure health and hygiene. The concept of “hygiene” is the cornerstone of the European production system, i.e. controls in every production stage, 'from farm to fork’ i.e. from fields/animal farms through to dishes served at table. All operations are conducted in full compliance with EU regulations and through the application of HACCP(Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) – a protocol designed to prevent food contamination risks”.
The United States is still a long way behind in this regard but efforts are being intensified to align the two Continents, thereby making trade easier and improving the competitiveness of companies, as well as the quality of the food. “We can say,” Cinotti concluded, “that painstaking reviews of the production process ensure constant improvement of all processes and excellent results have been achieved in the 11 years since the Hygiene Package was introduced, for example in combating salmonella, as certified by the EFSA report. Data referring to outbreaks of food contamination in the United States and Europe highlight the differences which the two approaches to food safety currently present”.
Source: Eurocarne Outlook