Problems Related To The Quality And Safety Of Food And Its Impact On Trade

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 1998b), the frequency of cases of diseases caused by poorly preserved or contaminated food could be between 300 and 350 times higher than what the reports indicated so far. This higher frequency, directly linked to the most critical health problems that threaten the world population, has a considerable commercial impact, since globalization, the intensification of product exchanges and the displacement of people are responsible in no small measure for the spread and aggravation of diseases, the increase in the number of infectious outbreaks and the complexity of pathologies.

The changes in lifestyles, which are one of the consequences of the new world economic order, and the different practices of food, shopping, preparation and storage of food products are forcing the authorities to assume more stringent positions regarding control of the quality and safety of food. The more significant severity of the regulations and the increase in inspection actions indicate that the situation of food products, both in national and international markets, must be subject to sustained efforts to ensure that all countries have efficient systems of quality control and safety.

However, the constant presence in world markets of poor quality and contaminated products, and the consequent increase in rejections translate into severe damage to the economic development of the countries. Rejects not only affect an outcome or a set of products, but also necessary quantities of different types of products from countries where bad hygienic or management and conservation practices have been identified. Importers usually start from the assumption that any failure in the process of making a particular product harms others or creates risks in them. In some cases, rejection can be extended to products from an entire region in which waters or soils contaminated with agrochemicals are shared. Given that the production practices or the prevailing conditions in different zones can be very similar, the desire to reduce the costs of careful risk management translates into more significant difficulties in distinguishing safe from dangerous products. In any case, the inspection and surveillance costs at import customs offices in importing countries are considerably increased.

The solution does not lie in the closing of borders or the multiplication of surveillance systems, to make the entry of goods more selective, but in adopting corrective strategies that affect all phases of the production process. Such policies should be both flexible and applied according to the problems and resources of each country; not depend on the use of sophisticated technologies or require significant investments in equipment and training of operators.

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