Flexible food safety bylaws an opportunity for small-scale Serbian producers World Food Safety Day

Keeping food safe from farm to plate is everyone’s business.

In Serbia, new flexible food safety bylaws are making it easier for small-scale producers to sell their pickled cornichons, jams and other traditional foods in formal markets.

These rules, in line with EU food safety and quality standards, include flexibility measures and derogations for traditional food products based on local fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs. They join earlier measures developed specifically for Serbian meat and dairy products.

These rules mean small-scale producers and processors can continue following traditional production methods as long as the food is safe to eat and no corners on hygiene have been cut.

To mark World Food Safety Day, FAO, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Serbian Government invited Serbian agricultural producers, specialists, food distributors and representatives from producer organizations, consumer groups and the media to an online roundtable on what these latest rules entail for on-farm and small-capacity processing.

For Nenad Vujović, Serbia’s Assistant Minister for Inspection, these bylaws are an excellent opportunity for the country’s producers to compete on the market at home and abroad. And they can help preserve the rich diversity of Serbian foods.

“The flexibility measures outline specific requirements related to processing that either are not compulsory for small-scale operators or can easily be adapted.”

“We are excited to partner with everyone along the food safety chain to roll out these measures and to make sure everyone understands the economic benefits of complying with them,” he added.

Preserving traditions, staying competitive

Miloš Pajic, who makes traditional sausages, ham and other specialty meat products, owns one of the thousands of small Serbian family-run food businesses. These businesses, which have strong ties with their customers, have excellent potential to grow.

He is one of the producers who welcomed the flexibility measures once they were approved. He views them as a way to preserve local traditions, livelihoods and cultural heritage – and earn consumers’ trust.

“To stay competitive, you need a good product. I’m working with my children to keep them up to date on these safety and hygiene measures at all stages, from the raw material to the finished product,” he said.

In Serbia, most farming families grow their own fruits and vegetables. And many, like Stevan Petrovic, have a long history of producing ajvar, a pepper paste made according to a traditional recipe handed down over the years.

Without these measures, he and other smaller operators would be squeezed out of larger, formal markets.

“When people buy my ajvar, they will know I haven’t sacrificed food safety or hygiene,” he said.

Knowledge sharing and compliance

Serbia – a candidate for EU membership – began adapting its food safety regulations several years ago to be more in line with EU legislation. But these regulations were geared to larger operators. FAO and the EBRD helped develop these bylaws, based on the type of flexibility measures already in play for EU member countries, to keep smaller Serbian businesses in the game.

During the webinar, FAO and EBRD introduced guidelines and promotional materials, including video tutorials, to help Serbian producers comply with the new bylaws for fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs.

These efforts are the latest in the two agencies’ longstanding support to the Serbian Government on raising food safety and quality standards to improve the competitiveness of the country’s meat, dairy, fruit and vegetable industries.

Food safety is a collective responsibility. Knowledge and training, cooperation and partnerships along the supply chain are vital to keeping our foods safe and the cornerstones for a healthier future for all.

Source: Flexible food safety bylaws an opportunity for small-scale Serbian producers World Food Safety Day | Support to Investment | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (fao.org)


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