Health

2023: Court cases, rule changes and Codex celebrations

— OPINION —

Welcome to 2023! The calendars have been changed, the holiday season is coming to a close and it is time to refocus ahead of what is sure to be another news worthy period for the food sector.

This year marks a decade since the horse meat scandal in Europe. The food fraud involved meat from horses in beef products without being listed on the label. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) reported findings of horse meat in burgers in mid-January 2013.

Some of the issues listed in 2022 will also continue this year. Plus, at the bottom of this article, you can find a selection of events, outside the United States, in date order.

Russia Ukraine conflict
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022. As well as the loss of human life and damage to infrastructure, concerns have been raised about food security. Ukraine was a top exporter of grain and the conflict has contributed to food price increases. Russia and Ukraine are major providers of wheat, corn and sunflower oil. Countries in Africa and the Middle East have been particularly affected. The impact of rising food and energy prices is another area to watch. The issue has been raised at Codex and World Trade Organization meetings but it is unclear how and when military action will end.

The wheels of justice
Court hearings are ongoing in Spain around the Magrudis stuffed pork Listeria outbreak of 2019. More than 200 people fell sick and five died.

Also, Strauss is facing civil action for a Salmonella confectionery incident in Israel, Ferrero is being investigated by the Luxembourg public prosecutor’s office, and proceedings are ongoing against Nestlé in France because of an E. coli outbreak associated with pizza.

Remember the Tiger Brands Enterprise polony Listeria outbreak in South Africa? It was in 2017 and 2018 but we have yet to get to the first stage of trial. Here’s hoping 2023 will see that happen and the class action can move forward.

Happy Birthday Codex and WHO
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the 75th of the World Health Organization (WHO). Planned celebrations for Codex will not be held on a specific day. Case studies on the implementation of Codex texts in national scenarios are planned.

On June 7, World Food Safety Day, promoted by WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), will be marked and it is dedicated to the theme of standards.

Regulatory agency developments
Jersey has proposed draft legislation to regulate food to protect consumers’ health. It will replace the previous food safety law with a comment period to be held shortly. In December, the Nigerian Senate passed the Food Safety and Quality Bill 2022. The Mauritius Food Standards Agency (MFSA) will be operational beginning in January 2023. In mid-2022, Cambodia signed a Law on Food Safety.

Reforms to food laws in Israel entered into force in January 2023. The country is adopting EU legislation on contaminants, microbiological criteria, and pesticide residues, with some exceptions. Authorities in Lithuania, Greece, Austria and Hungary will support Israel as part of a 24-month project. The Luxembourg Veterinary and Food Administration (ALVA) was created in late 2022 by bringing together most food chain control bodies in a single agency. From the start of this month, the law on safety of food products came into force in Azerbaijan. Efforts are still ongoing to create an African Food Safety Agency.

EU legislation changes
The European Commission has extended the approval for glyphosate until Dec. 15, 2023. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is scheduled to publish an assessment in July 2023.

The EU has limited the levels of four environmental chemicals, perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS), in food. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) are known as “forever chemicals”. Rules apply beginning in January 2023. 

Changed levels of dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in certain foods now apply. Maximum limits for milk and dairy products have been lowered and now cover all poultry eggs except goose eggs. Meat products such as horse, rabbit, wild boar, game birds and venison are included.

Maximum levels of the mycotoxin ochratoxin A in bakery products, dried vine fruit, roasted coffee and soluble coffee have been lowered. Rules now cover some dried fruit, certain licorice products, dried herbs, some ingredients for herbal infusions, certain oilseeds, pistachio nuts and cocoa powder. Monitoring is ongoing for cheese and ham.

Maximum levels for hydrocyanic acid in foods such as linseed, almonds and cassava have entered into force. Cyanide is toxic to people but is naturally found in some plants.

EU countries are also monitoring mercury in fish, crustaceans and mollusks to gather data for an updated consumer risk assessment. The EU is also working on an update to Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat food rules.

Delay to food rules in Singapore
A new licensing system to provide better food safety assurance to consumers in Singapore has been delayed until July 2025. The Safety Assurance for Food Establishments (SAFE) framework was set to start beginning in 2023. The Singapore Food Agency said the delay follows feedback to allow more time for industry to prepare. The new system will feature Gold, Silver and Bronze awards with some sites needing an accredited Food Safety Management System (FSMS) and a trained Advanced Food Hygiene Officer (FHO). More details can be found here.

Events Scheduled in 2023:

Global Forum for Food and Agriculture Jan 18-21 in Berlin

Next steps for UK food regulation and standards Jan. 26 in London

BRCGS Food Safety Europe Feb. 1 in London

Food Safety and Quality Summit Feb. 22-23 in Dusseldorf, Germany

Arab Food Safety Summit in March in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

IAFP Europe May 3-5 in Aberdeen, Scotland

European Food Sure Summit May 9-10 in Milan, Italy

Cell culture-derived foods and food ingredients May 11-12 Brussels 

Food Safety Summit SA May 30-31

Government Chemist Conference June 20-21 in London

CIEH Food Safety Conference June 27-28 online

World Mycotoxin Forum Oct. 9-11 Antwerp, Belgium

China International Food Safety and Quality Conference Nov. 2-3 in Beijing

ESCAIDE date TBA in Barcelona, Spain

EU Food Safety Forum: TBA

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