5 years ago




FOOD SAFETY PROBLEMS SPECIFIC TO THE SHORT CHAIN SELECTED CASE STUDIES FROM THE NETHERLANDS Dr. Benno ter Kuile Senior advisor microbiology BuRO NVWA Guest researcher Amsterdam University (The Netherlands) E‐mail: When it comes to foodstuffs, the term “short chain” is to be taken quite literally. It often defines sale at the place of production, such as farms or small workshops, such as bakers and butchers. The place of production indicates something different from the place of preparation. Restaurants or catering is not by necessity considered short chain, only in the exceptional cases that they are linked to farms and use products of their own land. Another term often used for the short chain is “artisan”, denoting special skills of the producer and traditional preparation procedures. In the Netherlands there are approximately 25,000 companies that are considered short chain food producers. The mobile group, selling at markets is the largest (11,500), followed by the bakers (3,500) and butchers (1,800). The total number has been steadily decreasing over the years. The short chain is subject to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004, which has been transformed into hygiene codes by their trade organizations. Examples of farm shops that sell products, in these cases cheese, that are produced on the premises. 28

In the eyes of the public the short chain is linked to all kind of positive connotations. They expect the products to be more fresh, pure, healthy, natural, nutritious, better tasting and safe than their mainstream “industrial” counterparts. It is questionable whether any or all of these expectations are realistic. First of all a term like “pure” is poorly defined and taste is very personal. Whether the nutritional value is different depends on many factors, the length of the chain being only one of them and a short chain does not guarantee an increased nutritional value. This presentation will focus solely on the aspect of food safety. The mainstream food industry attempts to control the chain from farm‐to‐fork using such instruments as HACCP and GMP. All major companies employ quality managers and food safety specialists. In the short chain very few companies have the size that they can afford the services of professionals dedicated solely to safety. Three examples of mishaps that have occurred in the Netherlands may serve as examples of what can go wrong as result of a lack of knowledge in this area. In 2006 an unexplained cluster of infections with a rare Salmonella Typhimurium fagetype 560, was discovered in Twente, an area in the east of the Netherlands. An investigation using among other things the addresses of the people affected disclosed that the cluster coincided with the sales area of two supermarkets. One of the few specific items that these supermarkets carried exclusively were the products of a nearby cheese farm. Using standard methodology the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) did not discover the 29

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