Even in an age when the consumption of organic food is booming, strict global food safety standards are needed to protect the consumers, a leading expert at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.
Mary Kenny, officer of FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that the safety of all foodstuffs, including organic food, remains a global priority.
“It means that food should be safe and free from chemical and microbiological contaminants. And the nature of food supplies these days means that it’s an international issue,” she said.
With this in mind, major food producers and exporters, including China, are constantly raising food safety standards, Kenny said, adding that, however, it is unclear to what extent the emergence of organic food is impacting food safety in China or elsewhere.
According to Kenny, even organic food may present certain safety risks. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that the right systems are in place and that food production and distribution is as risk-free as possible.
She noted for example that although organically sourced fruit and vegetables might have a lower risk of chemical contamination, the correct procedures to prevent microbiological contamination still have to be followed. As for meat and dairy products produced from organically-fed animals, they still carry the inherent risk of bacteria or parasites, which occur naturally in livestock.
“So we need to adopt the same food safety perspective to organic food that we adopt to other foods,” she said.
The conventional wisdom is that organic food is healthier and more eco-friendly than other food. However, Kenny said this does not mean that conventional foods should automatically be dismissed as having a higher risk.
“Conventional food production certainly uses more chemicals, such as pesticides,” she said. “But there are very strong and robust national and international systems to ensure the safe use of these chemicals and these are followed around the world.”