Dutch food safety is high, but opportunities for food fraud increase
Generally speaking, food in the Netherlands is safe. This is in part thanks to the legislative system, the compliance of businesses and supervision by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA). However, the number of food fraud cases is on the rise, while new developments such as the reuse of products pose new food safety risks. This analysis emerges from the first report that the NVWA has published on the subject of food safety: the Food Safety Statement (Staat van voedselveiligheid).
The overview provided in the aforementioned report, which is based on NVWA figures from 2015 and 2016, paints a picture of food safety in the final links of the food supply chain and include businesses that import, produce, transport, sell and serve foodstuffs in the Netherlands.
Consumers must be able to rely on the safety of their food. Recent research has shown that consumer confidence in the safety of food products is higher in 2018 than in the period between 2013 and 2015. In 2018, 68% of consumers believe that foodstuffs are generally safe, as compared to 61% in 2015. Anyone producing or selling food is therefore responsible for ensuring that they only market safe food. The NVWA is tasked with supervision and the necessary enforcement of food safety laws and regulations.
Supervision results for 2015 and 2016
In 2015 and 2016, risk-based food safety inspections were carried out at 21,000 and 24,000 businesses from a total of 240,000 and 250,000 respectively. These inspections revealed that 8,000 (2015) and 10,000 (2016) businesses were non-compliant. In addition, 0.6% of the food samples tested did not meet the microbiological criteria. Sampling also showed that residues of plant protection products on foodstuffs exceeded the legal limits by an average of 2.5%, or even 3.9% for mycotoxins (mould). The statutory maximum limits compel food businesses to ensure that the presence of contaminants in their products is as low as possible. Exceeding a statutory limit does not always mean that there will be an acute health risk.
Armed with a more thorough investigative approach and with newly available tracing techniques, the NVWA is continuously expanding and improving its insight into food fraud. More and more indications of food fraud are being addressed every year. However, because fraudsters are trying their utmost to remain out of the supervisory authority's line of sight, it is impossible to make any pronouncements on the total scale of food fraud. "We notice that the opportunities to commit food fraud and its profitability have increased. Although food fraud in general will not automatically result in products that are unsafe to eat, it does often jeopardise the traceability of products. When a business identifies or suspects fraudulent behaviour within the food production chain, it is very important that it is reported to the NVWA", says Rob van Lint, the NVWA Inspector-General.
The circular economy is another development that the NWVA needs to take into consideration in its supervision activities. This positive development of reusing surplus foodstuffs makes society more sustainable. However, it is important to consider any food safety risks that could arise as a result. The concerned businesses must take steps to ensure that "waste" does not find its way into the food supply chain.
Any journalists with questions about this press release should contact the press office team at the NVWA on +31 (0) 88 22 33 700.
Consumers and businesses should contact the Customer Contact Centre via the website or on +31 88 223 33 33 (standard call charges apply).