Small Serbian Producers Benefit From Food Security Flexibility

Flexible food safety regulations make it easier for small Serbian producers to sell their products in formal markets.

These rules, in line with EU quality and food safety standards, include exemptions for traditional products made from local fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. They are in addition to previous measures developed for Serbian meat and dairy products.

They mean that small producers and processors can continue to follow traditional production methods as long as food is safe and hygienic procedures are followed.

FAO, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Serbian government organized an online roundtable with Serbian agricultural producers, food distributors, representatives of producer organizations and consumer groups on what the rules mean for on-farm and small-capacity processors on World Food Safety Day.

Thousands of small businesses
Nenad Vujović, Deputy Minister of Inspection of Serbia, said the regulations are an opportunity for the country’s producers to compete in the domestic market and abroad while helping to preserve the diversity of Serbian foods such as pickles and jams.

“Flexibility measures define specific processing requirements which are not obligatory for small operators or can be easily adapted. We are delighted to partner with all actors in the food safety chain to roll out these measures and ensure that everyone understands the economic benefits of adhering to them, ”he said.

Miloš Pajic makes traditional sausages, ham and other specialty meat products and owns one of the thousands of small family businesses in the country.

“I work with my children to keep them up to date with these safety and hygiene measures at all stages, from raw material to finished product,” he said.

In Serbia, most farming families grow their own fruits and vegetables. Many, including Stevan Petrovic, produce ajvar, a pepper paste made according to a traditional recipe handed down over the years. Petrovic said without the measures he and other smaller operators would be excluded from larger formal markets.

“When people buy my ajvar, they will know that I have not sacrificed food safety or hygiene,” he said.

Serbia – a candidate for EU membership – several years ago began to adapt its food safety regulations to comply with EU law. But these rules were addressed to large operators. FAO and EBRD helped draft the statutes, building on flexibility measures already used in EU member countries, to help small Serbian businesses.

The webinar featured guidelines and video tutorials to help producers comply with the regulations. It was the latest in a series of efforts by FAO and EBRD to help the Serbian government raise food safety and quality standards and improve the competitiveness of the meat, dairy sectors. , fruits and vegetables of the country.

Serbian perspective on important issues
Tamara Boskovic, head of the veterinary public health department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management in Serbia, said she has worked with small producers for several years to try to find solutions.

Tamara Boskovic

“We have prepared a regulation with derogation for small producers and guidelines for the meat and dairy sector on how they can implement hygiene and self-control rules. They started submitting requests to be in our registry and under our control, we also provided them with local training to focus on hygiene rules and so they were aware that flexibility rules did not happen. did not apply to hygiene, ”she told another webinar on World Food. Safety day.

“We had some problems in mountain areas where there is no drinking water, water or electricity at all, so the rules of hygiene are not at a high level, but by working with them, a third of producers in Serbia are now registered as establishments under the flexibility principles. Our ministry recognized the importance of keeping these small producers alive and therefore provided them with grants to improve their establishments and knowledge.

Boskovic said the country was part of projects funded by the EU, FAO and the World Bank to do and present research to monitor progress.

“E. coli and Salmonella are still the best bacteria in Serbia even though the hygiene rules are quite strict in our food safety systems. Viruses like norovirus in raspberries are a problem and we have some problems with the virus. hepatitis in certain foods We are trying to implement all the monitoring programs for veterinary residues, pesticides and microbiological parameters on foods and at border controls.

Producers had to implement strict measures during COVID-19, but there was no less production and people were buying more food, Boskovic said.

“What we were faced with was that there was not enough food for the lower social class, for the poor and the unemployed because the public kitchen was closed. In the production of honey, we had problems with food fraud because during official controls people could not go everywhere to check everything. We are trying to export meat and milk to China, we know food does not transmit COVID, but China has asked us to check packaging materials and the surface of frozen meat for COVID, So we had to establish this test in Serbia and it really caused some impact on our food industry.

RAM on the program
Meanwhile, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance has been included in Uzbekistan’s national program to combat resistance of microorganisms to antimicrobial drugs for 2020 to 2024.

One way to highlight the threat to public health posed by AMR is to put in place effective surveillance programs. Information on the levels of AMR in foodborne pathogens and antimicrobial residues in foods of animal origin can help guide risk management and policy.

However, few countries in the WHO European Region have sufficient capacity to monitor antimicrobial resistance in the food chain. The World Health Organization (WHO) Europe helps countries establish and strengthen antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial resistance systems, and integrate antimicrobial resistance testing into existing surveillance and response systems foodborne illness.

Gulnora Abdukhalilova, scientist at the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, led a project on antimicrobial resistant strains of Campylobacter and Salmonella in chickens reared for food in 2016.

Research has shown that most strains of Salmonella in chickens are multidrug-resistant, which means the infections they cause can be difficult to treat. The excessive and overuse of antimicrobials in poultry production was a factor of resistance.

“Surveillance of antimicrobial drug resistance in common foodborne pathogens just needs to be done. It is important to coordinate and exchange information between different sectors, such as poultry production and health care, ”said Abdukhalilova.

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