Dutch News

13 March 2014
Food inspection of the 2nd largest food exporter in a very bad state

An investigative journalist gives his views on the bad status of the Dutch food inspection in a new book. Over the last years the lower house and the cabinet decided that far less food inspectors were needed. Now the companies that cheat have nothing to fear anymore, 'they almost can do what they want. Dutch inspectors are wearing too many hats: they have to enforce, control, but also give out export certificates.'

The journalist wrote a book, with the title 'To the bone', which analyses the dramatic state the Dutch food inspection is in and how that happened. In the newspaper de Volkskrant he gives insight in his research. 'The inspection has been reorganised and cut back so much that there is not much left of it.' In the book the writer mentions the farmers wars, meaning on one side the agricultural world almost totally aimed at export (the Dutch are the 2nd largest agricultural exporter in the world) and the importance of food- and health safety on the other. 'Since the end of the second world war the agricultural branch has tried to pull the food safety to their side.

This finally worked in 2003 while the Dutch food inspection was moved to the minister of agriculture during the formation of a new cabinet. According to the journalist this was an enormous mistake. Especially if you know that this decision was made during the period that the bird flu ravaged the country. The idea was that the famers should get more responsibility and that there should be far less rules. The writer: the recipe for food catastrophes. And that is what happened. In 10 years the number of food inspectors went form around a 1000 to 300 now. This mean that only 1/12 of the usual inspections are carried out. Already in 2008 specialists warned that the bounds of possibilities was reached. But the ministers at the time decided to almost totally stop the controls on honest food trade and food fraud. At the time the idea was that food had never been as safe.

In reality over the last 20 years the mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever and Q fever have broke out in the Netherlands. Lately there was the salmonella infection in salmon processed and exported by the Dutch and obviously all the horse meat scandals. Q fever caused the death of an estimated 75 people and from the salmonella infection outbreak around 24 people died. And still the Dutch did not manage to control the problems with resistance of antibiotics and salmonella.

According to the journalist the comeback of the traditional food inspector is needed. ‘The inspector  that comes in everywhere with his suitcase and takes samples. Now these people have too many different responsibilities: 'they have to enforce, control, but also give out export certificates. Now  European consumers are deeply suspicious of food quality, they think something is wrong. I am afraid that the same will happen as in the bank sector, where many people totally lost faith in the financial system after the financial crisis’.







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