EU Agriculture Ministers discussed at their extraordinary session today in Hungary the crisis in the vegetable market caused by the contamination of cucumbers with E.coli and emphasised the importance of food safety.
"This incident proves again how important and also vulnerable is food safety in the context of modern global trade," said the Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder. "Such cases show how vital is functional surveillance and international cooperation in this field."
The Ministers reached a conclusion that the source of contamination has to be discovered and consumers have to be informed as soon as possible. Most important today is ensuring a sense of security for the consumers and the ministers believe that this can be achieved only by leaning on the facts.
By today, contaminated cucumber lots have been made certain but the source of contamination is still unknown – contamination might have taken place during production, transport, processing or somewhere else. The European Commission, as well as respective bodies of Member States are included in the investigation. Many vegetable growers of several countries have already asked for assistance from the Commission due to great economic losses. According to the Commission, existing legislative possibilities have to be used for the time being. Should the crisis expand even further, emergency intervention, which requires the ministersʼ decision, can come under discussion.
Seeder says that the health and safety of people and discovering the source of contamination as quickly as possible are of greatest importance, because these help to prevent the reoccurrence of similar incidents in the future. "Member States should definitely not impose restrictions on their market on economic reasons in light of this incident," added Seeder.
The second issue discussed at the meeting dealt with the situation of the livestock sector – this also from the point of view of food safety. According to Seeder, animal welfare requirements mainly express the requirements enforced on animal health and keeping conditions. "One of the corner stones of the EU Common Agricultural Policy is ensuring our consumers healthy and safe food," stated Seeder. "We need to make sure that importers fulfil the same conditions as well, because on the one hand, it is important for the consumers and on the other hand, it ensures equal competition."
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