Importance of food safety

We can define food safety as the set of conditions and measures necessary during the production, storage, distribution, and preparation of food to ensure that its consumption does not represent a risk to the health of people due to physical, microbiological (bacteria , viruses, parasites) or harmful chemical substances, which can cause diseases of an infectious or toxic nature, whose manifestations range from gastrointestinal problems to long-term chronic diseases such as cancer.
Thus, food safety covers all the links of the food chain, from animal feed and production to sale to the consumer, through to processing, storage, transport, import and export.

Food safety when preparing food

Pathogens transmitted through food are imperceptible. At first sight, a food may seem innocuous and can still contain pathogens, be it bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause diseases.

The first step before cooking is to wash your hands with warm water and soap and clean the surfaces that are going to be in contact with the food. In addition, it is recommended to use different knives and cutting boards for each type of product. Contamination spreads when bacteria spread from one food product to another. This is especially common when preparing raw meats, fish, seafood and eggs.

It is important to take into account the optimum cooking temperatures, for this purpose a thermometer placed at different stages of the food is used, for example, to avoid consuming eggs cooked below 71.1 ° C. An example is Spanish omelette which,  due to its preparation, can reach different temperatures in different stages.

Finally, the product must be refrigerated as soon as possible, especially if the temperature is above 25 ° C, in which case the food  should not be out for more than an hour. Cold temperatures delay the growth of dangerous bacteria. Keeping the refrigerator at a constant temperature of 4.4 ° C or lower is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of diseases caused by bacteria in food.
You should never thaw food at room temperature. It is recommended to do it inside the refrigerator. If it is done in cold water or in the microwave oven, it should be cooked immediately.

Legislation on food safety

To ensure food safety, the European Union has adopted legislation that contains a series of rules that apply to the production, processing and introduction of food products in markets, with food safety being the primary responsibility of food companies and animal food and feed companies, while the competent authorities are responsible for monitoring, verifying and demanding compliance with this requirement through national systems of supervision and control in all the stages mentioned above. Thus, the member states of the European Union are also obliged to establish rules regarding the measures and sanctions applicable in case of violation of the legislation on food and feed, which must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

Particularly relevant in terms of food safety is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is the independent scientific body of the EU that assesses the risks present in food, a mission that it carries out through the compilation of all scientific evidence at a given moment about a specific risk in a food.

With all that information, EFSA deduces a toxicological reference value, also called guide value, based on health. For substances with a chronic effect, such as pollutants, this value is the maximum amount of substance to which the population can be exposed through the consumption of food, and from all other possible sources, throughout life in a safe way , that is, without presenting the toxicological effects of the substance. In the case of microbiological risks, EFSA evaluates the risk of exposure to certain pathogens for humans, as well as their toxins.

In its risk assessments, and based on data from the different substances or microorganisms present in the food and the consumption data of those foods of the diet at the European level, EFSA identifies the foods that pose the greatest risk for the exposure to said risk. for the general population, as well as for certain specific groups of the population, called vulnerable groups (children, pregnant women, the elderly, vegetarians, etc.).

On this scientific basis, experts from the different Working Groups of the Commission propose and discuss measures to avoid or reduce the exposure of European consumers to different food risks. This is what is known as food risk management, which is nothing more than evaluating the different options to protect consumers from food risks and which results in the establishment of the relevant legislation to achieve it.

While it is true that scientific data are very important when preparing legislation, other legitimate interests must also be taken into account when making decisions, such as economic, social or cultural interests. All this is contemplated in the process of elaboration of the legislation with the objective of avoiding that the legislation of alimentary security can get to constitute a true impediment to the international trade of the foods, and can endanger this economic sector or cause the shortage of a food in a country or region.

When discussing the risk management measures to be applied, it is necessary to weigh the benefit for the consumers (protection of the whole population or of specific groups) against the economic damage that can be caused in the commercialization of food.

Therefore we can conclude that the European legislation on food safety and food safety and in particular the regulations on food additives, is constantly evolving due to new scientific data, and thus, it is important to constantly keep updated in the novelties in legislative matter to be able to adapt to the new norms in alimentary production.