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Product Safety and Quality Assurance : Summary

1. Basic assumptions and goals

Food production systems are developing continuously. Increasing demands are being put on both the products and the production process. Questions that arise are how far and in what way they will develop, and how livestock farmers and industry should anticipate such a process. In 1998 Thomas Urban wrote a challenging paper on this subject in which he stated that over the next 25 years a food system will develop (he called it prescription food system) that will let the present systems appear primitive, unorganised, and unregulated. Consumer expectations for food safety, animal welfare, and the environment as well as progress in genetechnology and biotechnology will be the main driving forces behind the predicted change. The key elements in the developing food production systems will be food safety and traceability. The consequences of these changes for the players in tomorrow´s food system will be enormous.

The virtual conference as well as the workshop tried to find answers to the following questions:

  • Will internationally recognised standards for product quality and food safety be developed?
  • Will recording systems for the documentation and control of quality standards in the production chain for food and raw materials that originate from livestock farming be developed and implemented?
  • What do such new developments mean for the future organisational and regional patterns of animal production?
  • Which role will and can family farms play in the developing production systems?
  • 2. Workshop 3: Product safety and quality assurance

    The workshop was held at the University of Vechta on June 22nd and 23rd, 2000. About 100 participants could be welcomed, not only from Germany, but also from the Netherlands.

    On June 22nd papers that tried to give answers to the before mentioned questions were presented. Speakers and titles of the papers were:

    Thomas Blaha (Minneapolis, USA): The Importance of Quality Assurance and Food Safety in Modern Food Production Systems
    Andrew Fearne (London, UK): Food Safety and Quality Assurance: Insights from the UK Beef Industry
    Suzan Horst (Boxmeer, NL): Risk Management Systems in Relation to Food Safety: Who Benefits and Who Pays?
    Heinz Schweer (Zeven, D): Meat Production and Distribution: Criteria for the Future
    Per Eidness Sörensen (Copenhagen, DK): The Strategy of the Danish Pigmeat Sector
    S. C. Kyriakis (Thessaloniki, GR): Strategies for the Assurance of Safety and Quality in Pork Production
    Josef Köfer (Graz, A): Control Strategies in the Production of Pork in Styria
    Roger Morris (Palmerston, NZ): A Risk-Based Farm to Fork Food Safety Information System
    The papers were presented in English and German and simultaneously translated.

    The main results can be summarised as follows:
    At the present time no alternative to the development and implementation of controlled production systems (production chains) is at hand. The question is no longer if such systems make sense or not. Countries or production regions that are able to implement quality assurance systems and thus add to product safety and that have enforced a stringent environmental and animal welfare legislation will be the winners and gain market shares, countries and regions that are not able or willing to do this will be the losers.

    The statements of the speakers from various countries and the discussion showed that a global convergence can be observed with respect to the future development of animal production. Product safety and quality assurance will be the main driving forces besides animal welfare and environmental aspects.

    3. Resolution of workshop 3

    On June 23rd speakers and several experts met to further discuss the question of sustainable animal production and the role of product safety and quality assurance in such a framework The participants of the session unanimously passed the following resolution:


    Workshop 3 of the Virtual Conference
    "Sustainable Animal Production"

    Vechta, June 23, 2000

    The meeting used the following framework for its discussions:

    "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs",

    and in more detail
    "Improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems, with sustainability being defined as a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained indefinitely".

    The participants of Workshop 3 therefore declare that pre-harvest food safety measures and on-farm quality assurance procedures are indispensable components of the concept of sustainable animal production.

    These pre-harvest food safety measures complement the traditional tools of food hygiene and the increasing use of science-based risk management principles, such as HACCP, in the harvest and post-harvest areas of the food chain. They are targeted at the protection of the population against chemical and antimicrobial residues, food-borne pathogens and bacterial resistance to antimicrobial drugs.

    The on-farm quality assurance procedures turn livestock producers from anonymous suppliers of an indistinguishable raw product into identifiable, non-replaceable partners of distinct food production chains. They are targeted at the implementation of specific certifiable standard operating procedures (SOPs) at farm level (including application to farm input suppliers such as feed mills), which will improve the quality and marketability of the product, and improve the compliance of the production procedures with the latest knowledge on environmental protection and animal well being.

    There is growing societal unease about agricultural production procedures (due in part to lack of knowledge and understanding in urban populations), and dissatisfaction with governmental single-point inspection systems. There is a clear need to provide transparency of production procedures, effective control of food-borne hazards through the full production and marketing chain, and traceability of end products back through the production chain to the farm of origin.

    Development of systems to achieve these goals should be the major objective of any effort to implement food safety and quality programs through the total chain, including pre-harvest food safety and on-farm quality assurance programs Such an approach will work most effectively if based on a partnership strategy, in which producers and processors work together to achieve food safety and quality objectives, subject to official oversight and audit of the activities.

    The development of this approach will be best achieved through the formulation, implementation and practical evaluation of systems which can provide an initial working model of the approach. This first example can then be progressively enhanced to cover all of the essential features of an effective food safety and quality system.

    This will require research on:

    1. Identifying what "action packages" of measures are required to deal with each of the specific food safety hazards of importance to human health, including the capacity to adapt the approach to varying needs and goals.

    2. Developing information tools and systems which can be effectively integrated into the production and processing chain, in order to achieve food safety and quality objectives.

    3. Evaluating how best to integrate such systems in a cost-effective way into the food chain, such that benefits flow to chain participants who contribute to the success of the system.

    4. General evaluation of forum 3 and workshop 3

    Speakers, participants, and organisers of the forum and the workshop agree, that:

  • both were very valuable in bringing farmers, politicians, people from the industry and from administration as well as scientists together to discuss the future development of production systems,
  • the papers presented, the discussion of these papers, and the final meeting of speakers and experts contributed to the insight that a global convergence with respect to visions of the future development of production systems can be observed,
  • that the results of both, forum and workshop, will play an important role in the development of a global vision of modern intensive animal production that is grounded in scientific facts and is committed to finding solutions for the world food crisis.
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