A few weeks ago, news came again about sick animals being slaughtered in unacceptable conditions and sent into the food chain. I sat back and asked myself: how can this happen again? Have I not done enough? What else can I do?
After the fipronil crisis back in 2017, I gathered all the Ministers from all Member States; together we agreed on the way forward and adapted the rules. Everyone sitting around that table agreed. We even had a follow up discussion no later than last December. Promises were also made to improve and accelerate the sharing of information. And yet, a few short months later, we are learning about a new case of food fraud. When we went through the horse meat and fipronil crises, the fraudulent activities did not threaten public health. But what if the next time it is different? You would think that everyone working in the food chain has a vested interest in ensuring that the food that reaches consumers is safe. However, these recent examples show that the criminal activity has not been stopped. So, what do I need to do to provoke Member States to enforce controls? We can make the best legislation in the world bit if it is not implemented, it is worthless.
In the fipronil case, eggs with fipronil originating from a single Member State were traced to all the other 27! It was a crime that reached the European level. How are these criminal activities are being dealt with? What penalties are the perpetrators receiving? Is the penalty given adequate to dissuade others? Did Member States really learn from these events? Do we need to impose legislation enforcing video recordings in every single slaughterhouse, as some suggest?
Relaxed attitudes to food safety will inevitably backfire. Even when these criminal activities do not threaten public health, they do threaten the trust of citizens and consumers in our food safety system. It is time to make sure all of those involved are responsible for their actions - from farms to veterinary controls.
This is not just an opinion that may come across as a sort of an exasperation. It is a call for action. We must stop these criminal activities. Because in the end they hurt us all, in every Member State.