Ensuring consumer confidence in the safety of food in today’s global food system is an issue that has been gaining paramount importance of late. Though the most fundamental purpose of our food safety efforts is, of course, to make food safe and thus protect people from harm, consumer confidence is an important goal in its own right.
Individuals and families everywhere want the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the food they put on the table is safe. And, we are all better off from a public health perspective if consumers can choose a healthy, diverse and economical diet without having to worry about food safety.
Consumer confidence also has big economic implications. It provides the foundation for the growing global trade in food as well as robust domestic markets that are open to innovative products and technologies. When major outbreaks of diseases or incidents of contamination spoil consumer confidence in a particular commodity or sector, the loss of sales can be significant and it takes a long time to recover. Remember the Maggie noodles issue.
So, we operate in a world where consumer confidence is a key pillar of the global food system and consumer expectations for food safety are high. Most consumers understand that food is not risk-free. They do expect that everyone involved in producing, processing, transporting and marketing food is doing everything they reasonably can to prevent problems and make food safe.
Of late, governments worldwide are working to meet consumer expectations for food safety and to strengthen public confidence. In the United States, consumers and the food industry came together to support passage, in 2014, of the FDA Food Safety Modernisation Act. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has come out with new, tough federal food-safety laws. These comprehensive regulations will tighten control on procedures and elevate the standard of food in the UAE. India has passed a food safety Bill and is implementing the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006. Europe has been working for over a decade to strengthen its food safety policies and institutions.
The things we need to do to improve food safety are the very same things we need to do to strengthen consumer confidence. Food safety and consumer confidence are the product of a common effort that includes five key themes: food industry’s commitment to and responsibility for food safety; a comprehensive systems approach from farm to table; credible and effective government oversight; genuine public-private collaboration; and partnership and transparency on the part of industry and government.
Safety Messenger has focused on these vital issues in the current issue. We are planning to give a major focus in future on health safety issues, especially healthcare-related safety issues. We will also highlight the initiatives by leading hospitals in this vital area.
I would also take this opportunity to wish all our readers a happy and prosperous New Year.