Food company Buitoni has been accused of food poisoning for the second time in a matter of weeks after a new complaint was filed in France for E. coli poisoning in a range of its pizzas.
The two cases are in addition to the 150 reports of salmonella contamination recently revealed in nine EU countries involving Kinder chocolate.
Both instances reveal serious flaws in the European food safety system, which is normally considered one of the safest in the world.
Camille Perrin, a food policy officer at BEUC (European Consumers’ Organisation), told Euronews it is not so much the European system that is at fault, but more EU countries’ lack of means and manufacturers’ lack of will.
“We published a report three years ago, which highlighted a worrying reduction in the resources allocated to these official controls, both in terms of budget and staffing levels in the health services,” Perrin said.
“And so, this can eventually lead to this type of scandal because if manufacturers are simply left to their own devices, if we rely entirely on the self-controls that they carry out, then we risk missing certain breaches.”
According to BEUC figures, the number of inspection staff has fallen by 7% in Spain, 10% in Belgium and 30% in France.
The European Parliament has been calling for stronger legislation for many years now, including French MEP Eric Andrieu, who says there is still room for improvement in the EU’s food safety system.
“Today, it is all very well to say that we produce the best food in the world, which is true…but I think that it is also deliberate because I think that we need to make progress in this area,” Andrieu told Euronews.
“We need to improve the legislation and there is still room for progress. So we cannot be confident. I’m going to say 80%, but there’s a 20% margin [for improvement] on which we still need to make progress to guarantee 100% safety.”
The European food industry lobby, FoodDrinkEurope, told Euronews that it did not wish to comment specifically on the two cases.
In a statement, it said: “These are a matter for the businesses concerned. However, food safety is a priority for FoodDrinkEurope members and we continue to work with the European Commission, food chain partners and other stakeholders to ensure the highest standards of safety.”