Food is the driving force of our lives and eating is our most important daily routine. It is at the same time essential means of providing energy and the basis for social interaction and enjoyment. The production and consumption of food has also a wide range of economic and environmental consequences.
Food safety is the utilization of resources and strategies to ensure that foods are properly produced, processed, and distributed so they are safe for consumption. Food safety is related to the presence of foodborne hazards like chemical, physical, and biological hazards in food at the point of consumption. The introduction of food safety hazards can occur at any stage of the food chain and adequate control throughout the food chain is indispensable.
Globalization, food trade, and increased urbanization especially in developing countries influenced the organization of food supply chains and networks with increasingly complex and dynamic relationships. Globalization is an historical process that began as early as the first movement of people out of Africa into other parts of the world. The global food supply system has undergone dramatic changes over the past couple of decades and is linked to trade liberalization, multinational food corporations, retailing, food marketing, and consumers’ attitudes and behaviour. The increasing integration of cross-border movement on one side and local food supply chains on the other can be considered as a threat and as a challenge for the food safety at the same time.
Supply chains are understood as transformation processes from inputs through primary production, processing, and marketing to the final consumption. Food supply chain distinguishes itself from other supply chains due to its purpose to guarantee the provision of safe and healthy products that are fully traceable from farm to fork. The food industry is nowadays solely consumer oriented and needs quick response times to deal with bad publicity and liability due to food scandals and incidents. A food supply chain is a network of food-related business involved in the creation and consumption of food products, where food products move from farm to table. Supply chain management is the integrated planning, coordination, and control of all business and activities in the supply chain to deliver superior consumer value at least cost to the supply chain as a whole while satisfying the variable requirements of other stakeholders in the supply chain like government and non-governmental organizations.
A supply chain is a series of physical and decision-making activities connected by material and information flows and associated flows of money and property rights that cross organizational boundaries. The supply chain includes all parties who are involved in any operation within food circle from production to consumption. Only one insufficient or truncated information or just simply miscommunication in supply chain can result in unsafe food that is dangerous to health. That is why transparency and traceability along food supply chain is one of the most important elements in food supply chain in order to guarantee product and process integrity, improve consumer trust, and maintain quality and safety standards. Growing interest with consumer demands and requirements on food quality and safety emphasises food traceability and food tracking. Benefits such as increase in customer satisfaction, improvement in food crises management, and improvement in food supply chain competence development for companies, technological and scientific contribution, and contribution to agricultural sustainability.
Food systems are changing and are consequently resulting in consistent quality, enhanced safety, greater availability, and diversity of broad assortments throughout the year. Food quality and food safety have become a hot topic. Consumers have become increasingly concerned and demanding about the quality and safety of food they are eating. The increased demand for safer food has resulted in the development and introduction of quality management systems, which are used to control the quality and safety of products like standards and good practices.
Food safety requirements with changes in food supply chains, social, health, and demographic situations, lifestyle, and environmental conditions have led to significant efforts in the development of quality management system (QMS) in agribusiness and food industry worldwide. Because quality systems differ in several aspects, they are combined or integrated to assure more aspects of food quality. Quality is divided into aspects of product safety, product quality, and total quality, which embrace product’s safety and quality.
The concept of food safety management system (FSMS) consists of “food safety” and “management system” aspects and is based on prevention. However, we will never be able to completely prevent and measure food safety performance, so there is a need to have effective food safety system, which includes integration of various elements within food supply chain whereas communication within circle is crucial. Food safety management can be explained from the perspective of government FSMS or more narrowly from industry point of view. Governmental and industry food safety management responsibilities are interactive and interlinked. According to regulatory demand, every operator in food supply chain has to implement a specific FSMS. At primary production, these FSMSs are a result of implementing good agricultural and hygienic practices, while, at processing and trade, the FSMS includes good manufacturing and hygienic practices and HACCP-based principles. FSMS comprises the equipment, procedures, programs, tools, organisational measures, and people necessary to execute the control and assurance activities aimed at ensuring chemical and microbial safety of fresh produce.
Nowadays quality assurance systems such as GMP, HACCP, ISO, BRC, and IFS standards are applied for assuring food safety. Each quality assurance system is focused on particular one. For example, GMP and HACCP are especially developed to assure food safety. Like HACCP, BRC deals with food safety and product quality but evaluates also on management aspects like ISO and facility condition like GMP. Additionally, ISO and Total quality management focus more on management aspects, whereas GMP and HACCP focus on technology aspects.
Food manufacturers have to decide which quality assurance is most suitable to their situation and how this system should be implemented. Over the last few years, a large number of companies have implemented quality assurance systems and Total quality management system in order to introduce effective quality systems and consequently produce and distribute high-quality products.
Experiences, tradition, practice, technical, and scientific knowledge helped shape the principles and techniques to achieve acceptable food safety. Even Old Testament contains several instructions on the manner of handling food. The biggest changes in food production occurred during the nineteenth century.
Due to industrialization and rapid urbanization connected to poor hygiene, food laws like Act of 1860 for “Preventing the Adulteration of Food and Drink” in England and Codex Alimenarius were created although at that time the knowledge and understanding of the importance of hygiene and the dangers of adulterations were neglected. These laws were not strictly legally enforceable and consequently did not work. The first major federal consumer protection law with respect to food processing was the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906, which was also proven to have loopholes. In 1938, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was enforced.
EU food safety regulation history started after the 1960s. The first EU food hygiene rules which were adopted in 1964 were limited to requirements for fresh meat. Over the decades, further hygiene legislation was developed and implemented for other food groups. The introduction of hygiene rules undoubtedly had an impact on helping to boost the level of food safety in the EU by preventing, eliminating, or reducing contamination of food.
Food affairs have globally resulted in increased government regulatory activities. Federal and international agencies are acting to encourage better public health protection.
Many public and private standards on food safety and quality have been established since the 1990s as a result of market internationalism. Public standards have the ultimate role of protecting consumers, while private standards are designed to protect their own business. Private standards, also called private voluntary or just voluntary standards, have emerged as an important mode of market governance in many developed countries as well as developing countries. Private standards have become the basis for product differentiation in markets and are increasingly driven by quality-based competition. Private standards often consider food hazards as well as environmental, ethical, occupational health issues and other social responsibility issues. The key factors driving private standards are brand protection, the promotion of business improvement and efficiency, and assistance in response to consumer concerns.
In the last two decades, substantial growth in voluntary and national certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs was observed. Certification schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs provide assurance through a certification mechanism. They cover a wide range of different public and private initiatives that function at different stages of the food supply chain. They can operate at the business-to-business level or at the business-to-consumer level. Demands regarding private standards are best presented by global forum The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which is facilitated by The Consumer Goods Forum, which is the only independent global network for consumer goods retailers and manufacturers worldwide.
Food safety is of crucial importance to the consumer, food industry, and economy. Despite significant investment, the incidence of food-derived diseases still increases. Our inability to effectively improve the situation is a matter of major concern in spite of the very significant resources allocated to the problem of foodborne diseases.
Foodborne diseases as a growing public health problem (EFSA 2015) encompass a wide spectrum of illnesses. Foodborne diseases not only significantly affect people health and well-being, but they also have economic consequences for individuals, families, communities, business, and countries. The cases of foodborne illness occur daily in developed and also developing countries.
Consumers and other stakeholders are increasingly concerned about the continuing sequence of food scandals and incidents. The occurrence of various national and international food safety issues over the last few decades has arguably resulted in a decline in public trust in food safety regulation and management worldwide.
Increasing food demand and technological and economic changes have led to an intensification of agriculture and farming, but in these days the global agri-food system is confronting environmental, social, and economic challenges, which can represent an important threat to human health and at the same time defy effective food safety.
Soil and water pollution and food safety are the most important interlinked issues nowadays. Pollution and food contamination related to the use of production technologies, processes, and also consumption have significant environmental consequences. Environmental points of views with the aim to ensure sustainable food supply are increasingly important aspects also in good practices.
Food production and consumption behaviour have major negative impacts on human health and on the sustainability of the environment like greenhouse gas emissions, waste, water use, and land degradation. Many food consumers are more and more concerned about negative impacts of the food system and demand environmentally friendly food products. Climate change is a global concern with consequences like global warming, unusual regional weather patterns, more frequent droughts, changes in nutrient loads, changes in contaminants’ transport, etc. Climate change has an impact not only on food production and food security but also on food safety, incidence, and prevalence of foodborne diseases.
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