Food safety system and homework

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Italian food products are not only popular and demanded all over the world because they are considered the excellences of gastronomy, but most of all because Made in Italy food is also among the safest, if not the safest, ever. The domestic food industry processes more than 70% of the country’s agricultural products and commits more than 1.6% turnover of financial resources for production controls. In addition, more than 15% of employees, both direct and indirect, are earmarked for food safety, with almost 3 million daily checks. Unfortunately, Italian raw materials are not always sufficient for our processing firms, so much so that imports of beef and pork meat, respectively 40 and 35% of requirements, are continuously growing, as well as imports of wheat (approximately 40% of durum wheat used in Italy and 60% of common wheat) or tomato, in its normal state or semi-processed. In these cases, therefore, food safety is only partly subjected to the strict controls of our security system, while the other part is left to the diligence, not always careful, of operators in other countries. In this situation, the risk of food adulteration is high, so much so that in 2012 NAS police (anti-adulteration police unit) has seized little less than 20000 tons of food. First, flours, pasta and bread (16% of total economic value) and meat and its products (11%). Therefore, in the national food sector there is an evident correlation between fraud and main import products. The compulsory indication of origin on all raw food, repeatedly stressed by several organizations of national producers and consumers, could certainly help containing this phenomenon, although it might not be enough for eradicating it. The recent scandal of horse meat used in place of beef is one clear example. In fact, beef’s indication of origin is compulsory, but this was not enough to prevent fraud. The so-called clean labels are welcomed, but greater attention in controls is required, not so much for raw materials and products imported into our country, which is surely sufficient and accurate, but for those leaving from the exporting countries, at least in the European Union. As a matter of fact the problem of horse meat started in Europe. Even if there aren’t or there shouldn’t be any problems for the consumers’ health, it’s still true that it is fraud. For European countries, especially Central and Northern Italy, I’ll be preaching to the choir if I write that Italy has a lot to learn and sometimes it needs to do some homework. But in terms of food security our country should not learn from anyone. Indeed, it can export its control system to many countries and in turn, at least in this, leave homework to others.

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