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UK Food Experts Share Their Concerns in Latest Issue of Bite

Food safety experts in the United Kingdom share what they are worried about in the latest issue of Bite: The Food Standards Agency magazine with teeth, The latest issue — now available online — looks at the role science can play in meeting food safety challenges.

In the “What should we be worried about?” article, a Bite roundtable asked several experts to share their thoughts on the food safety risks that will emerge over the next 12 months.

At the Center for Environmental Risks and Futures at Cranfield University, Fiona Lickorish worries about more black market foods.

“If I were a farmer, I’d be locking up my sheep because we’re seeing a much higher incidence of rustling for the black market,” Lickorish says. “If I were the FSA, I would, perhaps, be trying to spot mobile slaughterhouses because you could be rustling and processing quite well with one of those and then selling on the black market.”

Helen Roberts at the UK’s Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency says “animal disease rather than food safety per se” worries her most. She points to Schmallenberg Virus, a new emerging livestock disease that has been detected in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, as an example.

Roberts says the “brand new’ disease literally blew into the UK across the English Channel from infected midges. Farmers need to be encouraged now to report the disease so that veterinarians can collect more information on it, she says

Alec Kyriakides at Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd. is only worried about the future being a repeat of the past. “I can say with 100 percent certainty what the issues are going to be in 12 months’ time,” he says. “They’ll be exactly the same as they are now.”

“When we’re talking about emerging risks, we’re talking about things that are genuinely peripheral to what happens day in, day out,” he says. “The issues that cause most withdrawals and most waste of product are mislabeling of product, date codes or ingredient information that leads to allergen issues. Allergens will be there, guaranteed, as the top issue, followed by physical issues, glass, metal, wood and plastic.”

Andrew Wedge, FSA’s chief scientist, says things don’t stand still.

“I agree with Alec that actually in a year’s time we will be dealing with the same sorts of issues, but I can predict that we have not seen our last dioxin in animal feed incident, and I am happy to go on record about that. I just don know when and where it will happen,” he says.

Wedge says changes in technology and the economy do impact what FSA does even with its robust regulatory framework.

More information on the panel discussion with more speakers sharing their worries can be here found on the FSA website.

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