In recent years, food production has become increasingly a global phenomenon. Many of the products we consume come from foreign countries and, sometimes, they are processed in remote parts of the world to arrive in our supermarkets. This globalization process raises the problem of guaranteeing quality and safety in an extremely complex and articulated production context. The European Union, in order to give countries additional tools for analysis, and to protect consumers living through the European Market, has set up the Food and Feed Safety Alerts: a rapid alert system created in 1979, on a proposal from the European Council, aimed at establishing a Community system for the rapid exchange of information on dangers associated with consumer products.
Every year, this Organization issues a report providing data and trends on safety alerts at both the European and national level with fact sheets for each country. Reading the data reveals interesting details that are worth mentioning.
As reported in the 2019 report regarding Italy, it can be seen that most of the alert notifications came from controls on products that arrived at the country’s borders, followed by alerts regarding controls made by health agencies on the Italian territory. The most affected products were fish and fish products, nuts, nuts production and seeds, food contact materials, bivalve mollusks and products thereof, fruits and vegetables, meat, and meat products. The top hazard categories were related to Pathogenic micro-organism, mycotoxins, metals, migration, food additives and flavoring, parasitic infestation, microbial contaminations, and foreign bodies. The origin of the notified products was varied, but we can identify some hot spots where the major alerts are concentrated. In addition to the Italian market, we can find products from Spain, France, Poland, Turkey, China, the United States, and Egypt.
These data should make us reflect on the need to intervene to prevent consumers from being put at risk, and reiterate that the health of citizens comes first. The game to contain these alerts is played, in any case, on various levels of intervention that involve: more security controls at the country’s borders to prevent the import of potentially dangerous products, allocation of more operational resources to agencies working in food safety, greater incentives to companies to equip them with state-of-the-art inspection systems that can contribute to a widespread quality control along the entire production line.