Short description: The European Union is the biggest world importer of food products. Therefore what is brought on European plates is taken very seriously. The 27 members of the EU have got a very strict legislation regarding the quality of food, it applies to candidate countries as well as to countries that simply import food into the Union. The idea is that what EU citizens eat is as safe as possible. Showing concrete examples, this feature shows how the law is implemented to best protect the consumers.
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF COMMENTARY AND INTERVIEWS - DURATION 4'04''
0-22 Farm pictures, pigs being fed.
On this farm in Belgium, pigs are raised to be eaten all over Europe... This is where food safety starts... With what the animals eat : the animal's food is our food too. Therefore the pig meal must be labelled to allow it to be traced back in case there is a problem. The farmer is very cautious.
22-35 Lucien Royen, belgian farmer 15 sec
Take our silos for example. They're all numbered and it is impossible to make a mistake when the flour is delivered . Its composition and so-on meet well defined norms.
35-52 Pigs being tagged
The animals are identified as well shortly after their birth. They carry a tag with a code number engraved on it. All this data will be transmitted troughout the production chain..
Why is Europe so obsessed with food safety ? Because past crises have made it a big issue.
52-1'09 Philip Tod, European Commission spokesman for food safety21
We've had these last decades a number of animal health and food safety problems which have raised public awareness on the need for safe food, we have considerably strenghten our legislation as a result of problems like BSE, food and mouth disease in the past.
1'09- 1'27 BSE archives
11 years ago, the pictures of cows sick with BSE came as a shock for the Europeans. Today, people are still dying from the human form of the illness.
The epizooty was caused by the introduction of animal meat and bone meal into cattle feed. For years afterwards, British beef was banned in Europe.
It took six years to reinforce the protection of consumers. One of the most crucial element of the law is traceability. The pigs from the farm are going to be transformed into ham. The slaughterhouse must put its own stamp on the carcasses.
Safety and hygiène conditions during food processing must meet high standards as well. At the end of the chain the risk of bacterial contamination becomes critical. As the slices of ham are wrapped, an identification code finalises the traceability procedure.
2'01-2'10 Philip Tod, European Commission spokesman for health and food safety
Unsafe products have to be taken off the markets and the basic principle is, that food producers are held responsible and they can only place on the market food which they believe to be safe
2'10-2'28 food in supermarket/more slaughterhouse
The EU imports food products from more than 200 countries. It's not always easy to respect its standards. In 2004, not all the slaughterhouses and dairies of the new members states were ready, they got more time to comply, but meanwhile their products could only be sold on their national market.
2'29-2'58 Slovenian border post control/ veterinary inspections
Imports have got to go through border inspection posts.
Today this slovenian border post is checking a shipment of canned tuna from thailand. The load is sealed. The seals are broken in front of the transporters and inspectors.. Then a few boxes are checked.
The inspectors smell and taste the product to see if there is any bacterial contamination. They also check the information and traceability data given by the thai company.
2'58-3'19 Zarko Rovscek, chief veterinary
The veterinary border inspection post has many tasks. Our main one is to ensure the safe import of
foodstuffs that are en route to European consumers all over the continent, it doesn't matter where they live.
Once the inspection is over, the control post issues a common veterinary entry document. It's a certificate that allows the entry and sale of the products inside the European union.
31'31-3'50 Philip Tod, European Commission spokesman for health and food safety
Consumers these days are becoming more and more demanding and if you want to meet the demand of consumers, we have to ensure that our food is safe and at a high quality and respectiing those rules is the most effective way to satisfy consumers that we are meeting their demands
More than 10 years after the mad cow crisis, European consumers expect to find non dangerous food on their plates. Of course, to achieve this goal, companies have had to make a lot of efforts... but isn't it worth it, as our health depends on it ?