Huub Lelieveld - Articles and news items
Issue 5 2010 • 4 November 2010 • Huug de Vries, Project Coordinator, NovelQ and Huub Lelieveld Executive Committee, Global Harmonisation Initiative
On 18 February 2010, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn – the new Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science – gave a speech at the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union. Mrs Geoghegan-Quinn made two striking remarks:
“My job title covers research, innovation and science. I am glad that President Barroso decided to connect up these different areas. While science and research creates a pool of ideas, innovation policy must bring these ideas to the market. So, it makes sense to link them. In fact, I am the first ever European Commissioner for Innovation – a clear sign of its growing importance for our jobs and growth and our society.”
Featured news • 14 October 2009 • Huub Lelieveld, Executive Committee, Global Harmonistaion Initiative
Despite the fact that preservation of food is essential to ensure that we have food during winter times, for several decades, consumers and consumer organisations have shown an aversion against the most-applied traditional preservation methods: the addition of chemical preservatives, such as sorbic acid, and the use of heat to pasteurise or sterilise the product. The chemicals, they have been told, are not safe and the heat destroys vitamins and other nutrients.
The past ten years have seen many changes in both food science and technology as well as in food regulations. Contrary to the decades before then, most of it has been consumer driven. Consumers have become more aware of the influence of eating habits on their lives, in particular their health, and the food industry has happily tried to comply with their wishes with innovations, thereby stimulating research and development.
Scientists have decided that the time has come to put an end to disparities in food regulations between countries. There is no reason why food safety should be different depending on where a person lives. The following article provides an explanation on the why and – most importantly – the how.
During a meeting between a number of food scientists at the occasion of the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), representatives of the International Division of IFT and of the European Federation of Food Science and Technology (EFFoST) discussed the adverse consequences of the differences in food laws and regulations between countries. On the one hand almost a billion people suffer malnutrition or hunger, while at the same time in the same world, governments presume to protect their populations by destroying huge amounts of food they deem unsafe. When a food is indeed unfit for consumption, this is an acceptable and necessary response. However, food is also sometimes destroyed because it contains or might contain minute amounts, e.g. parts per billion and even on occasion parts per trillion, of certain chemicals. Regulations may require the total absence of certain chemicals, the so-called ‘zero-tolerance’ requirement. While in the 16th century it was already well-known that “All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy” (Paracelsus, before 1541), scientific data show that very many ‘toxic’ substances are essential for the human body to survive. Examples include vitamins and metals such as iron, selenium and molybdenum. Here, precisely is the crux of the matter. What is a safe food and what is food safety? The literature on the subject has exploded in the past decade, however, if one were pressed to positing a universally accepted definition of food safety, one would find this an exceedingly difficult if not impossible challenge. Simply stated, judging food safety is judging acceptability of risks; a normative, qualitative, or frequently a political activity.
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