The European food supply chain and food safety system are proving to be extremely resilient, according to Europe’s People Party (EPP) coordinator at European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, Herbert Dorfmann, as people still manage to find available and safe food on supermarket shelves even in time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a webinar organised by the platform SME Connect on how to ensure the highest food safety standards during the crisis, Dorfmann added that another important message is that the public opinion excluded any implication of the food industry in the spread of the virus.
“People trust food in a moment where food is worth much more than lots of other goods,” he said.
According to him, the whole food supply chain is also reacting well to the challenges the pandemic is bringing in terms of making food available to everyone.
“We’ve seen some empty supermarkets but this is not due to the food supply chain but due to people buying more than they actually need,” he explained.
As the food sector could be put under pressure in the weeks to come, Dorfmann envisaged a test also for the working mechanism included in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to avoid disruption in the markets.
He mentioned the problems in the minced meat sector caused by the closing of fast-food chains like Burger King or McDonald’s, with a consequent decrease in consumption weighing upon meat prices too.
“At a certain point, we will need to intervene and we will see if the mechanism we have today work,” he added, saying that this test will be useful also to improve the EU crisis management instruments in the post-2020 CAP reform talks.
During the webinar, Giorgio Ferraris, CEO of Fine Foods & Pharmaceuticals and adviser of the SME Connect, gave the example of how his company, based in Bergamo, one of the worst-hit cities from coronavirus in Italy, is facing this extreme situation in terms of protecting workers and the manufacturing.
Although located in one of the acute hotspots of the pandemic, his company managed to be a safe place after having adopted significant changes to the way they work, including working shifts, staying at home when showing first symptoms of sickness, providing dressing rooms and by sanitising possible contagious surfaces.
Already in early February, a safety team discussed protective measures for workers which have later turned out to be the same as the measures adopted by the government in its safety guidelines.
“I think companies have a role in teaching people and making them sensitive to the risk,” said Ferraris.
He added that it is particularly SMEs like his, which are more sensitive to the risk of microbiology and contamination, that have a different understanding of what is happening than the ordinary population. This gives them a role to help their people understand the extent of the crisis.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]