Eat safely thanks to science: EFSA’s advice

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How do you read the label of a food? Can it be consumed after the expiry date? What allergens and additives does it contain? With the new #EUChooseSafeFood campaign, Italy and the Food Safety Authority – EFSA, are answering these (and other) questions, encouraging a more informed and safer diet

Literally European Food Safety Authority, EFSA is the independent body that deals with food risk assessment of the entire production chain “From field to fork”, that is, from the field to the table, passing through the farms and production plants.

With the collaboration of the best scientists from all over Europe, EFSA analyzes data, evaluates and elaborates high-level impartial recommendations and advice, which on the one hand are the scientific foundation of European legislation and policies on food-related risks, and other represent a source of practical information for those who do the shopping, a concrete help to be able choose in an informed and safe way what and how to eat in everyday life.

In practice, the work carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), funded by the EU, protects consumers, but also animals and the environment, from food-related risks, and is the guarantee that the food we buy is safe and controlled.

One campaign, many tips

To further strengthen this confidence, EFSA has launched a new campaign “The European Union supports food safety” – #EUChooseSafeFood, with the aim of further encouraging citizens to make informed food choices (do I really know what I eat?), underlining the role of science and describing the activities and commitment of those who work to ensure the safety of our food products.

The campaign is aimed at all those interested in well-being, health, an active lifestyle and safety of what they eat and cook, guiding them in their food choices and unraveling the doubts that emerge from the complexity of the information available.

Useful information, practical advice are available on the campaign website. pictures, training pills, testimonials, pictures and short videos.

You can also follow the campaign through social networks (Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, You Tube) and share content with the official hashtag #EUChooseSafeFood.

Cooking is a responsibility

“Food is essential to life. EFSA works to preserve its safety ”.

Shopping and cooking for oneself and loved ones requires attention and care. For food to be nourishment and vital energy it must be chosen in a conscious way, reading the labels well and excluding risks related to possible allergens, contaminants or additives. For this reason, EFSA scientists support citizens and share with them this great responsibility, so that a food is fresh, does not contain unwanted substances and is stored and cooked in the most correct and safe way.

Recent, for example, is the new evaluation, requested by the European Commission in 2020, which declared the food use of titanium dioxide, an additive used as a colorant (E171).

Or the evaluation about the intake of dietary sugars, which in a context of healthy and adequate nutrition, should be the as low as possible.

Or the advice given on how to reduce acrylamide production, a harmful substance that develops in starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes and cakes, if cooked at too high a temperature. But since it is practically impossible to completely avoid production, EFSA offers suggestions to at least try to reduce the quantity, such as, for example, frying and toasting in the oven only until lightly browned and not burning, avoiding the formation of crusts and blackened parts. and in any case vary the diet and cooking methods as much as possible.

Although European consumers are already among the most protected and informed in the world in terms of risks deriving from the food chain, as stated by Massimo Casciello, Director of the Directorate-General for Hygiene and Safety of Food and Nutrition at the Ministry of Health, the new campaign “The European Union supports food safety” – #EUChooseSafeFood – is intended to further strengthen the citizens’ trust, guaranteeing them the right to know the ways in which the foods consumed, at home or in the refreshment points, are produced, transformed, packaged, labeled and sold.

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Allergies? Read the labels carefully!

For those with a severe food allergy, even a very small amount of a certain ingredient can trigger an allergic reaction. Symptoms range from the mildest, such as itching or rash, to the most troubling, including vomiting, labored breathing, and even anaphylactic shock.

And since there is no cure, the only way to avoid taking risks is to not ingest (not even a small part) the ingredient to which you are sensitive.
For this reason, EFSA is tasked with establishing clinically significant reference doses for i allergen residues in food, and based on this scientific data, European legislation ensures that advice on possible allergens is clearly written on the packaging of food products, where the ingredients are listed.

In particular, there are 14 allergens that manufacturers must label under European Union law: peanuts, nuts, soybeans, mustard, eggs, lupine, milk, fish, cereals containing gluten, sesame, celery, sulfur dioxide, molluscs and shellfish.

Even a simple packet of crackers or biscuits can carry the wording at the bottom of the ingredients list “Contains traces of” “The product may contain traces of”: better pay attention!

AND expired: can I eat it?

“To be consumed by” or “To be consumed preferably by” mean the same thing?

Actually no, on the contrary, the two terms are very different from each other.

“Best before” is about food safety of a product and means that after that date the food is no longer safe and could cause discomfort or damage to health: in this case it is good not to risk!

“Best before” refers to the quality of the food and its organoleptic characteristics, in the sense that, if stored properly, as recommended on the package, the product will be good even after that date and can be consumed safely, even if the flavor and texture may no longer be the same: not you need to throw it away!

Also in this case it is the experts who ensure that the criteria for setting the dates are the same for all operators in the sector.

Safer, healthier

After some significant food crises that hit the EU between the late 1990s and early 2000s, (mostly caused by animals or animal products, such as swine fever), it was deemed necessary to introduce a process of risk assessment of the entire production chain: for this purpose it was established in Parma, in 2002, the European Food Safety Authority – EFSA, with the task of protect consumers, and dictate, with scientific evidence, the European regulations on food safety.

Its areas of expertise include:

food safety and feed

human nutrition

health and animal welfare (including the bee protection)

health and plant protection

assessment of emerging risks

contaminants in the food chain

added additives in food or feed

Illnesses? No thanks!

Thanks to the work of scientists, for example, cases of human salmonellosis have already decreased by 50% in the last 5 years: in addition to constant checks on animal and farm health and consequent stricter regulations, EFSA also offers some tips to put into practice when cooking (at home, but also for operators in the sector). In particular, care should be taken when handling eggs and raw meat from chickens, turkeys and pigs, which are mainly responsible for the transmission of the salmonella bacterium.

Always separate the eggs from the rest of the food

Keep the raw poultry and pork away from other foods

Cut the poultry and pork on a dedicated cutting board and then wash it well

Keep the work surface clean

Do not combine raw meat with cooked one

Wash your hands often with soap

Cook the meat well of pigs, chickens and turkeys

Others advice generic to reduce food risks concern it thawing, especially meat, fish and seafood:

Leave to defrost in the refrigerator

Keep food to be defrosted separate from other foods

Do not refreeze

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