Keeping standards high
Ensuring the quality and safety of Finnish foodstuffs is a goal shared by the authorities and the entire production chain.Matti Aho, Director General and Chief Veterinary Officer of the Department of Food and Health at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, says it has been easy to set high standards for national legislation because the safety situation in Finland has been good for a long time now.
Serious veterinary diseases have been successfully eliminated, and effective action to combat salmonella starting with checks on animal feeds has kept the number of cases very low. By any standard, Finnish food is extremely pure, so rather than fighting crises, the country has been able to concentrate on prevention.
“We strive to work with the food industry to improve the health of livestock and production animals in general rather than combat individual diseases. As the general health of the animals improves, producer profits rise,” says Aho.
According to Aho, the Nordic countries understood earlier than others that greater animal welfare also means more income for the producer. Other countries still have a tendency to view steps towards greater animal welfare merely as an extra expense.
The food industry is covered almost entirely by EU legislation. Finland’s concerns at the negotiating table in Brussels are to reduce risks in primary production and the food chain, to ensure product authenticity, to improve animal health and welfare, and to introduce genetically modified products in a manner acceptable to society at large. These concerns are all shared by the European Commission.
Finland wants to raise Community law to the same level as its own national legislation. During the Finnish Presidency in the second half of 2006, energetic steps were taken to reform the rules on the welfare of battery hens, among other things. This project was brought to conclusion during the German Presidency.
BY RISTO PITKÄNEN
PHOTO BY GETTYIMAGES