The 6th Food Safety Congress took place on the 3rd - 4th May with the attendance of 550 people under the coordination of the Food Safety Association, with the collaboration of International Association for Food Protection and the collaboration of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and with the participation and contribution of 31 institutions representing the food chain in all its stages like occupational chambers, industry associations, producer associations, and consumer organizations and thus bringing together all partners of the food industry.
Representatives from all occupations having responsibility over the food chain, public institutions and private sector representatives, academicians, students, consumers and press representatives were present in the Congress. 75 participants, 23 foreigners and 52 native speakers, gave oral presentations and 91 posters were exhibited in a total of 19 sessions held in 3 parallel.
New conventions of food processing technologies, innovative approaches to food safety analysis, digitalization of food safety, climate change and food safety have been at the forefront of the 6th Food Safety Congress, where different themes related to food safety are addressed in each congress.
Responsibility of the press, with the approach that it is as important for consumers to have the right information on food safety as ensuring food safety; the relationship between food and health due to their mutual interaction have been the other headings standing out in the congress.
The final declaration of the 6th Congress of Food Safety, in which the issue of food safety is assessed in many different ways, is as follows:
1. Food is susceptible to interactions with thousands of agents that can pose health risks in the process from farm to fork. In addition to these, there are also elements that can carry health risks in the natural structure of foods. There is never zero risk in any area of life and it is not possible to reduce food risks to zero. We do not have any food on the earth that possesses zero risk, including what we grow, what we make in our home. Microbiological contaminants and chemical pollutants, mycotoxins, environmental pollutants, process contaminants, agrochemical remnants that the numbers exceed thousands are the leading risk factors. Advanced analysis techniques and scientific developments have brought new risks to our agenda. Some of these risks are those that have existed since food existed, but are more recently recognized. This is best exemplified by acrylamide formation due to high heat treatment during food production. Some of the risks - such as in scenarios linked to climate change - are new to the agenda. Whatever it is; science-based institutional approaches and international regulations must be the case for the assessment, management and communication of food risks.
2. Innovative approaches are indispensable for the safe production, control and analysis of food. The studies carried out with the use of advanced technology present new information to us today. The public, universities and the private sector must give importance to innovative work and research, and strategies should be developed to raise awareness on this issue.
3. The importance of information technology and digitalization is increasing day by day in the spread of food safety practices and more efficient implementation. Digitization efforts in food safety, especially in areas such as blockchain sensor technologies and artificial intelligence, should be financially supported and made attractive.
4. Epidemiological studies on the case-based identification of food poisonings in our country and the establishment of concrete links with their agents require the use of DNA-based advanced technologies such as metagenomics and NGS (Next Generation Sequencing). With this view, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and universities need to work together, and systematically share information and be in a business alliance.
5. Probiotics offer great opportunities in the prevention of biofilm formation in food enterprises, as well as in the control of animal diseases and in the reduction of antibiotic use, as well as in making positive impacts on human health. There is a need to support applied scientific studies in these areas.
6. A holistic approach should be adopted in order to find out the rules that must be observed in the production, storage, distribution and sale of foodstuffs, which are subject to international trade more and more every day, and to eliminate the legislative incompatibilities in food trade. Food safety is an international field.
7. Food safety and health are an inseparable part of the whole. In this field has become a necessity to share data, to make more business associations and more interdisciplinary work.
8. The ongoing global climate change will lead to new food safety threats at many points in the food chain. In this respect, it is necessary to prepare for the anticipation of possible changes and the precautions to be taken against the different scenarios related to climate change, to develop awareness about the factors causing climate change and the measures and strategies that can be taken against the food safety risks that these factors will create, and undertake interdisciplinary and international cooperation.
9. Information on food production, consumption, food delivery, food research, legal regulations by media channels should also be addressed ethically. Discussing ethical responsibilities as required at all stages of the food chain requires interdisciplinary studies to adopt common principles.
10. Today, international regulations on food are based on "acceptable risk" and are intended to protect human health in a science-focused manner. In our country, food is managed by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock with the national legislation based on these regulations. The foods obtained as a result of the production made in compliance with the national legislation are safe foods suitable for human health. However, a limited number of academics are able to reverse priorities in food safety by making unscientific claims about food in every way that comes to their minds without relying on any scientific evidence. These academicians, who are not expert in any field of food and with arguable scientific impact in their fields, are famous in our country and perceived as food authority by consumers. The media also exploits the sensational environment created by these people. Through unqualified claims directing consumer attention towards unreal issues rather than real risks of food safety ultimately damages public health. Food has become an area where people who do not have a scientific presence in their field exploit to make a name in society. In view of the unsanitary claims against food produced with the permission, the conditions and the inspection of public administration; the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock’s silence, which has granted and inspected this production, is accelerating the development of the so called disinformation, or its abuse. This situation is not sustainable. It should be seen as the most valid solution to enter into a structuring that can communicate with the society in an interactive way, as in the case of EFSA, and take its credibility from scientific weight.
11. The main objective should be to ensure that the consumers meet first and foremost the concept of risk and then to get the right information about the risks and current problems in the food. Only in this way, they will be able to evaluate real risks and make their choices correctly. For realizing this aim, falls great responsibility to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, to universities, to the private sector and to the press:
- The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock should provide transparency in the sharing of audit results and risk assessment processes related to food safety as well as in counterfeiting.
- The food industry should provide self-control during its own production processes as well as ensure that these processes are monitored by partners via the channel of sectoral civil society organizations.
- The media should do the necessary work to prevent consumers from being offered sensational and unrealistic information. The information pollution in our country, which is fueled by press, is unseen in many countries.
12. In order to spread the standards of food safety in our country, it is necessary to improve both the big producers and small and medium-sized enterprises such as restaurants and buffets. Projects in this regard should be developed to ensure the development of food safety and hygiene conditions in small and medium-sized enterprises.
13. The manner in which legal regulations concerning food are made is extremely important. Legal regulations, which are a very complex and multifaceted process, must be based on a scientific basis. As well as the regulations’ being made in the public interest, and being scientific-based, participatory and transparent; it is very important that the current legal rules in this area be known and applicable without loss of time during the legal process. "Food Law" should be seen as a private law field and studies should be done in this direction.