Food safety and sustainability of the products are two sides of the same medal

This article was published in International Aquafeed Magazine - July 2020 edition.

The world’s food safety day in June every year is an excellent opportunity to stress that food safety and sustainability of the products are two sides of the same medal and two pillars of the food production system. In the 90s and until the 2010s, the push to promote free trade opened up new markets but also raised concerns about people’s welfare and the future of natural resources. Voluntary guidelines emerged including a variety of advice given to purchasers of seafood as to what they should buy if they wish to be seen to be behaving responsibly and buying responsibly sourced products. Among these, we find in-depth audited standards, but also quick and easy-to-use indicators to customers as what to be aware of when making buying decisions. Standards are not only here to ensure responsible sourcing: full traceability and product segregation are key requirements. Quality feed meaning quality food, marine ingredients are at the starting point of the value chain and what they contain is passed on to humans.

Endorsement by third parties

The difference between in-depth audited standards and quick and easy-to-use indicators is that published standards can be used by an independent auditor to carry out certification. Robust standards operate in alignment with international guidelines, which provide assurance to all stakeholders and allow consistency at a global scale. The FAO Code of Conduct for responsible fisheries plays an integral part in recognition of compliance to certification standards in the fisheries assessments.

This year, the FAO Code of Conduct for responsible fisheries will celebrate its 25th anniversary. While global production of fish and seafood has trebled between 1960-90, the Code has informed the development of international instruments, policies and programmes to support responsible management efforts. By doing so, it has encouraged the development of sustainable aquaculture practices throughout the world: “The Code recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries and the interests of all stakeholders of the fishing and aquaculture industries. It takes into account the biological characteristics of the resources and their environment and the interests of consumers and other users.”

International guidelines are kept relevant through dialog

The FAO’s Code of conduct for responsible fisheries is all the more relevant that it relies on constant dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders, including businesses, which maintain the relevance of such guidelines by keeping international decision makers updated on the latest developments in terms of technologies, research, innovation and development. The FAO and the WHO established the Codex Alimentarius Commission to develop food standards. Meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies are general held in public and open to delegations representing member countries and organizations with official observer status.

Data is key and the marine ingredients industry is fortunate enough to rely on decade-long datasets of information relating to feed ingredient safety, that is, ultimately, also of relevance to food and the consumer’s health. By contributing to enriching this database, we can promote an open and responsible industry that is vital to the global food industry, while encouraging fisheries to get involved in Fishery improvement projects and inviting local governments to comply with the FAO’s Code of conduct. Food safety is, fundamentally, a responsibility of national governments. Building trust is key to ensure that consumers will feel confident in buying products and engaging in dialogue with other institutions can help build this trust and enhance food safety. Collaboration will always been required, aware as we are that food production systems are interconnected throughout the world.

Petter Johannessen

Date: 
Friday, July 17, 2020