Europe’s food safety horizon stretches till South Africa.
As a consequence of the increasing globalisation of our food supply, European food safety experts are dealing with emerging risks far beyond European borders. In a workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, European and South African experts will discuss food safety and risk communication issues and look at possibilities for future joint collaborations, also in the EU 7th Framework Programme.
The workshop, which will take place on 22 and 23 May 2006, is organised by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in collaboration with the EU 6th Framework Project SAFE FOODS. A strong delegation of the European Commission will participate, underlining the importance of this event. “Europe is importing a lot of food commodities from South Africa, such as wine, fruit and maize. Furthermore, South Africa has adopted GM technology, so it’s important to collaborate on issues like risk assessment and communication. For these topics, South Africa can act as a kind of gatekeeper for the whole region”, says Harry Kuiper, coordinator of the SAFE FOODS project at the RIKILT-Institute of Food Safety in Wageningen, The Netherlands.“South Africa is already participating in several European projects. The whole issue of food safety is really important for us, because European regulations can easily become trade barriers”, says Dr Eugenia Barros, SAFE FOODS Researcher at CSIR in South Africa.
Both Europe and South Africa has invested substantial resources in national and regional initiatives to improve food safety standards to identify emerging food safety risks and facilitate proactive intervention. “We both agree we need a better exchange of information and less fragmented research activities. This workshop is another step in the right direction”, says Dr Barros.
SAFE FOODS is a 4-year EU project paving the way for more international collaboration, with scientists from 36 universities and research institutes from 19 countries, including South Africa and China. “Recent incidents, like Avian Influenza, indicate that food safety problems are not limited to certain geographical areas. As a consequence of the increasing globalisation of the food supply, food safety problems are rapidly spreading internationally. It is at this global level that emerging food risks must be discussed”, says Harry Kuiper. This view is supported by the European Commission, which is stimulating the active participation of partners outside Europe in its research projects. In the upcoming 7th Framework Programme, international collaboration will also be high on the agenda.