How can the EU protect consumers from contaminated food?

In a report put together for World Food Safety Day, the WHO claims that over 23 million consumers in Europe become ill each year after eating contaminated food.

In around 4700 cases, these illnesses are fatal, which has drawn attention to the need for tighter controls on food that could be sold in the EU in order to reduce the effects.

Illnesses like Norovirus, Salmonella, and Campylobacter have been steadily on the rise in recent years. In 2017, 15 million people were infected with Norovirus in Europe.

One of the common causes is poultry, which can carry deadly bacteria if not slaughtered, stored, or cooked correctly, and is, according to the WHO, responsible for an estimated 5 million illnesses a year.

All EU member states are responsible for food safety. The relevant authorities in each country are responsible for implementing food controls and for communicating with the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

Manufacturers also hold a lot of the responsibility for ensuring that food meets quality and safety standards by committing to monitoring their products.

Matthias Wolfschmidt, Foodwatch’s Director for International campaigns, said that, at the moment, the control system that’s in place isn’t as effective as it should be.

He said that Europe needs better controls in place for preventing contamination, and it also needs a better labeling system to ensure that all food that’s sold is safe for human consumption.

Further to this, he said that high levels of sugar and salt in some foods are becoming a major issue for European consumers, with more people than ever suffering from health-related illnesses. He noted: “We must extend the concept of food safety to include the dimension of deceptive foods that are falsely advertised as healthy.”

The WHO’s Director-General for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab pointed to the growing need for a global effort, saying that “food is a global affair because food chains operate worldwide. A simple dish can contain ingredients from several continents. Its safety, therefore, depends on international cooperation.”

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