The role of consumers in the food system is not passive!

To raise consumer awareness of everyday food choices and point to the high food safety standards in the EU, and therefore in Croatia too, the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food (HAPIH) presented a new edition of the #EUChooseSafeFood campaign. The campaign runs for the second year in a row in partnership with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the highest advisory body of the European Union in the field of food safety, and with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and a several other institutional partners in Croatia.

“According to the latest relevant European research, Croatian consumers are more interested in food safety issues than the average EU citizen. I believe that the high level of transparency of the Croatian food safety system and the withdrawal of products from the market has greatly contributed to the raising awareness of Croatian citizens about food safety,” said the Executive Director of HAPIH Darja Sokolić, PhD. She also emphasized the importance of continuous education of citizens on food safety and other related topics: “This year, one of the topics that are in the focus of the campaign in Croatia, as well as in the EU, will be on reducing food waste. This is extremely important because more than half of food waste comes from households, and as much as 10% is due to a lack of understanding of date marking on food products. This is why it is necessary to continuously educate and raise awareness of our consumers. It is up to all of us as individuals to reduce food waste as much as possible and thus contribute to reducing the economic, environmental and social consequences that food waste brings.”

“Everyone has a role in the food chain. By joining the European Union, we have taken over the EU legislation and with it also one of the highest food safety and hygiene standards. It’s not a cliché, but a fact. The Ministry of Agriculture is oriented towards control of the primary production and the food industry”, said the Head of the Sector for Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health of the Ministry of Agriculture Tomislav Kiš, VMD.

How we can reduce food waste, affect food safety and prevent foodborne diseases, avoid contaminants and how animal welfare affects the quality and safety of our food are the key topics of this year’s campaign in Croatia. Along with Croatia, the campaign is taking place in nine other European countries – Austria, Italy, Spain, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Finland, Greece and Cyprus.

The Executive Director of HAPIH, Darja Sokolić, PhD, Head of the Sector for Food Safety and Veterinary Public Health of the Ministry of Agriculture Tomislav Kiš, VMD, and the famous Croatian Masterchef Melkior Bašić talked about some of the aforementioned topics in the panel discussion led by the journalist and blogger Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish.

“Our food monitoring is only the tip of the pyramid because the basic premise of the current legislation is self-control. Each manufacturer is responsible for controlling himself, so the risk is reduced to the minimum. In addition, the end consumer is not a negligible link. We can make perfectly safe food, but if the chicken stays in the kitchen outside the refrigerator for three days, there is a chance that it will not be good. Everyone needs to do their part,” said Tomislav Kiš.

Chef Melkior Bašić commented on the situation in the restaurants as well as consumer awareness. “To reduce food waste, we must rationally distribute food. Today we heard that every Croat throws away an average of 71 kg of food, most of which comes from the households. Food is valuable, and it is a shame to throw away half the groceries due to carelessness and ignorance. We can freeze many foods, such as clear soup, or eat the leftovers the next day,” he said. “The world’s restaurants take great care of food waste. Today, we know many techniques by which we can, if the origin of food is verified, make the most of the food and reduce food waste to a minimum. Consumers are also becoming more aware, and I notice that they are increasingly taking leftover meals from restaurants,” said Bašić.

EFSA and HAPIH aim to bring consumers closer to sometimes complex information on food safety, to inform them in a simple and easy-to-understand way and encourage them to think critically about the food they consume. In addition to the topics in focus, consumers can learn more about the safety of novel foods, plant health, allergens, additives, food packaging, food additives and bee health. All topics and useful tips can be found on a dedicated #EUChoosesSafeFood website.

These efforts in educating consumers on food safety in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture are supported also by the Ministry of Health, Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology University of Zagreb, Faculty of Food Technology in Osijek, Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences Osijek, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Zagreb, Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Croatian Institute of Public Health, Teaching Institute for Public Health “Dr Andrija Štampar ”, Croatian Nutritionists Association, Center for Consumer Education and Information and European Center for Consumer Excellence Zagreb.

The campaign aims to inform and educate consumers by providing them with understandable and practical information, so this year it is also supported by six influencers: Melkior Bašić, Antonija Blaće, Maja Brekalo, Hungry Mile Butorac, Doris Pinčić and Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish. Digital and social media are the main channels for promoting the campaign, and communication will also take place by participating in various events, such as the one that took place at the caffe Botaničar.

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