EC changes to Listeria regulation ‘will not improve food safety’

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Goodburn: 'We can see no obvious public health or sustainability benefit to the changes'
Goodburn: 'We can see no obvious public health or sustainability benefit to the changes'

Related tags Listeria monocytogenes Food safety

New European Commission (EC) proposals to change Listeria monocytogenes legislation threaten food safety and risk creating waste, according to the Chilled Food Association (CFA).

The changes would require challenge testing to set shelf life – rather than the established and ‘proven effective’ Day of Production (DoP) and End of Life (EoL) approach currently used in the EU and the UK, coupled with storage trials.

The move would particularly affect chilled foods made on the Continent, where shelf lives are substantially longer than those in the UK’s tightly controlled local market. But changes would also impact export to the EU.

The CFA warned of increased waste as a result of consequent reduced shelf lives, as well as increased prices from highly specialised and ‘narrowly applicable testing’.

Proven methods

CFA director General Karin Goodburn explained: “The systems the UK chilled food sector has in place to detect and control Listeria have worked extremely well for the last 16 years since the EU Regulations came into force.

“This is illustrated in our more than 3m datapoints on Listeria – the largest data set of its type in the world. This is just one way in which we are able to prove that what is being proposed will not improve food safety.”

Another flaw Goodburn found in the EU’s approach was that it only covered the testing of food and did not address critical hygienic control of the food production environment.

No health benefit

“We can see no obvious public health or sustainability benefit to the changes and will continue to lobby the EC to retain the DOP/EOL and storage trial approach as it is demonstrably highly effective,”​ he added. “In short, when it comes to European Listeria legislation – it’s not broken, please don’t fix it!”

Earlier this year, the CFA established a pan-industry group to respond to the proposals when they first came to light.

Formed of trade associations, CFA members and retailers – and also liaising with European Federations including the European Chilled Food Federation – the group is gathering information and intelligence to present to the EC to show that the proposed changes are not necessary for food safety, but the originally agreed approach that was adopted by the UK, is.

Meanwhile, last month, the Food Standards Agency revealed that there is strong support for its proposed changes to modernise the way inspectors carry out ‘official controls’ in meat plants.

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