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The Consumer & Quality

The Consumer & Quality
© Kah.O
Within Europe food safety is a top priority and legislation is in place concerning nutrition and food health claims. There are also specific rules dealing with food contamination threats and general hygiene rules for all food and animal feed. Food businesses are required to identify each step in the production process critical to food safety, and put in place specific safety procedures. Monitoring and control of the presence of antibiotics, and other residues in aquaculture products, continues to be strengthened.

When drawing up its policy on food safety and the acceptable level of risk, the EU takes decisions based on sound advice and the latest technological developments. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for advising the EU institutions, and in particular the European Commission, on all aspects of food and feed production, processing and marketing. The European Commission then consults the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, on which all EU countries are represented.
Labelling & product traceability
The growth of aquaculture has led to concerns relating to environmental impacts, social issues, food safety, animal health and welfare or economic and financial issues. The industry and market have responded by establishing certification schemes in order to assure buyers, retailers and consumers. Currently there are over 30 certification schemes, but it is questionable as to whether any certification scheme to date is comprehensive in all relevant aspects. Also, modern food labelling must be balanced between giving consumers as much information as possible and not overloading the label with information that makes it difficult to read and understand. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have published draft guidelines, which are designed to be used for the purposes of aquaculture certification. They were formulated in reponse to the need for globally accepted norms for standards development and consensus about how credible certification schemes should be verified. Aquaculture production under certification will expand in the future and uncertified products will probably be the exception in years to come.
The European Union respects the consumer's right to informed choice, requiring informative labelling and published scientific advice, and has developed a new integrated approach to food safety, with feed and food being carefully tracked from the "farm to the fork". Food production systems are becoming increasingly reliant on certification and labelling schemes to differentiate between different grades of product and to identify products with particular attributes. Within the UK salmon farming industry alone there is organic certification, welfare-based certification (Freedom Foods), industry quality marks (SQS), place of origin certification (PGI status), certification for particular markets (Label Rouge) and certification systems operated by the major multinationals. The use of certification schemes is spreading but depends to a large extent on the priorities of consumers, or at least the retail (and food service) sectors who market the products.
"Consensus" is an initiative funded by the European Commission in the area of food safety and quality. It is driven by major European stakeholders, representing consumer interests, aquaculture producers, aquatic feed suppliers, environmental, animal health and welfare groups, as well as by stakeholders from various levels of legislative bodies within the EU. The main aim of the initiative is to ensure that sustainability becomes normal practice in the aquaculture industry, in terms of the environment, its social contribution and future economic success. A major role of the project is to demonstrate to consumers the health benefits of eating fish and shellfish grown in sustainable conditions.

See also

Information sources:
Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
The European Consumers Organisation (BEUC)
Fish Farming International, October 2007 issue
University of Stirling. 2006. Prospective Analysis of Emerging Aquaculture Systems in the EU; Output 2 - Characterisation of Emerging Systems. (Report -working draft).
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Greenpeace. 2008. Challenging the Aquaculture Industry on Sustainability. (Report).
EC. 2007. From Farm to Fork. Report.
French Food Safety Agency (AFSSA)