Speakers were drawn from academia, science and the three pillars of the European Union that are collectively responsible for food regulation – the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The conference attendees, which included a broad cross-section of stakeholders, gathered to evaluate the last ten years of food safety and also to consider the next ten.
Simon Coveney, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, kicked off the show with an encouraging speech on the growth potential of the agri industry in Ireland, highlighting the increase in Ireland’s exports, the interest from China, and the Kerry Group announcement to open its centre of food and technology innovation in Ireland. The Minister for Agriculture, although excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the agri industry in Ireland, emphasised that with this growth potential comes increased risk. He concluded that the key is to grow in safety and to provide EFSA with everything they need to continue providing independent scientific opinions.
Catherine Geslain-Laneelle represented EFSA at the conference. She congratulated Ireland for paving the way for EFSA, being the first EU country to put in place a separate and domestic food standards authority. Since the establishment of EFSA in 2002, a common co-ordination in regards to risk assessment and risk management across the EU has been developed. The executive director of EFSA made reference to the past food safety challenges, most notably for Ireland, the Dioxin scare in 2008 and also outlined the future challenges for EFSA such as new technology, new crop science, new pathogens, new legislation and the increase of counterfeit food on the market.
Professor Patrick Wall reminded the audience how important consumer attitude to food is in the greater scheme of things. Using the example of varying food policy in the US versus EU he highlighted the possible confusion to consumers. There is no doubt that all those involved in food safety have their work cut out for them. Professor Wall alluded to the fact that it is essential to put in place models such as surveillance and monitoring across all countries so that food safety issues can be caught early or indeed prevented altogether, concluding that it is crucial that risk managers support the policy makers to convey a united risk communication to the consumer.