Column Judith Witte: Taking risks
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Column Judith Witte: Taking risks

  • 16 May 2022
  • By: Judith Witte

Just before Easter, my daughter left in the middle of the night for a 2-year postponed school trip '24 hours to Paris'. Early in the morning, I had the following whatsapp conversation with her:

She: Mom, can I have Kinder Chocolate? Or is that not responsible?
Me: From Ferrero?
She: Yes, that one. Someone here has a whole bag full. But you don't recommend it? Or doesn't it matter?
Me: Why would you take that risk? They have a big Salmonella problem.
She: OK. Then I won't do it.

That's a good kid.

While in China entire neighbourhoods are locked down to control corona outbreaks, the Netherlands is bursting open this spring. After two years of restrictions and cancelled celebrations, we are celebrating our regained freedom to the fullest. The war around the corner in Ukraine makes us painfully aware of what that means: peace, freedom, security. We meet and embrace each other; on birthdays, King's Day, Liberation Day, Ascension Day. Music is played by bands on open-air stages, beer and wine flow, we drink from plastic cups. Hamburgers with onions are fried at stalls without fridges. 

"Are you sure?", I joke on 27 April to a fellow villager queuing at a burger stall on the square manned by a bunch of teenagers. "Do you think it's safe?"
"No idea..." he laughs. "I'll take that risk then. I'm hungry and it smells good!" He manages to get away with it, thankfully.

A day later, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) reported on its website that 24 inspectors had been on the road with regard to food safety at freemarkets and orange festivities on King's Day. Scattered over the country they carried out some 118 inspections, mainly of professional stallholders. The NVWA inspectors drew up 5 penalty reports; 55 offenders received a written warning. 

Of course, with only 24 inspectors and 118 inspections, only a fraction of all stands where you could snack on hamburgers, nasi, satay or hot meat sandwiches were checked. The 'home and kitchen entrepreneurs' were largely out of range. Many street vendors went wrong by not keeping the food they offered at a good temperature', reports the NVWA. Consumers were also given insufficient information about the allergens present in the foodstuffs on offer'.

Food producers are responsible for the quality and safety of their products and their recall. Still, I find it remarkable how easily many Dutch people take food safety risks on festival days.
If something goes wrong at your company, it’s a whole different story.

Judith Witte
[email protected]

Source: Vakblad Voedingsindustrie