The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed as a guarantee of safety of EU pork, beef and their products
The quality of beef, pork and their products, including the level of their contamination with pathogens has a significant impact on the health of consumers. In order to eliminate the risks associated with the consumption of potentially hazardous food, the European Union has introduced the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). This system plays a key role in ensuring the free movement of safe and healthy food in Europe.
Ensuring food safety requires taking action in a coordinated and integrated manner and is of interest to the government authorities, the general public, non-governmental organisations and trade organisations.
The strategy of food safety in the European Union includes inter alia the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). It is a network for the exchange of information on risks of foodstuffs and feed and products intended to come into contact with food between EU Member States. This means that the process of risk analysis of EU beef, pork and their products is much more complex than the analysis of the quality of meat alone. It includes also the entire environment in which farming, slaughter, processing and trade takes place. The information obtained from the RASFF system enables the early prevention of hazards and immediate remedial action, which is an important part of the strategy of food safety.
EU beef, pork and their products are not anonymous.
The threats associated with the consumption of potentially hazardous food include not only microbiological risk, but also the presence of pesticide residues, medicines and other contaminants present in food. It is worth stressing that these threats increase with the increase of turnover in international trade as an anonymous manufacturer produces a product for an anonymous consumer.
In the countries in the Community beef, pork and their products are not anonymous. Since 1978 there has been the Community information exchange system and later Council Directive 92/59/EEC on general safety of products contained an article about the rapid alert system. In turn, the RASFF system itself has been established by Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EC) No. 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and laying down procedures in matters of food safety. It includes the EU Member States, the countries of the European
Economic Area (EEA), the European Commission and the EFSA. The principle of operation of the system is very simple – Member States create a point of contact that collects all information concerning the direct or indirect risk from food or feed and then transmits the data to the European Commission which, after confirming the validity of the declaration of a risk factor, immediately informs the other members of the network. In the European Union, the RASFF as part of the process of risk analysis allows the Member States to act significantly faster and in a more coordinated way in response to identified risks to human health from food or feed.
To the RASFF system database there is both access for entitled entities (via the CIRCA portal), as well as public access through a website (http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/rapidalert/rasff_ portal_database_en.htm), while respecting the appropriate rules of entitlement and confidentiality.
The RASFF system is now an important element of sanitary and epidemiological surveillance and the policy for public health protection. This system allows taking immediate action in relation to the threat, enables quick elimination of products dangerous to health and provides a consistent level of food safety throughout the territory of the European Union. The data from the RASFF constitute the basis for making changes in the food legislation of the European Union and the guarantee of safety of EU beef, pork and their products.