The “fork to fork” food safety concept, as a strategic EU principle, is a response to the expectations of modern consumers who more and more often look for high-quality products compliant with high standards of production and animal welfare throughout the farming process. That concept, which currently also serves as the basis for the operation of the poultry production system in the European Union, applies to the activities of all participants of the food production chain – from controlling the sources of animal origin and correct feeding, to slaughter, to packaging and transport. According to the principle of full transparency of individual stages of production, food safety inspections, systems and regulations have been implemented throughout the EU in order to ensure ongoing monitoring of any potential threats. Another solution used is the HACCP system (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), which facilitates full traceability of production. In addition, the batch number displayed on meat packaging makes it possible to trace the product throughout the whole process. The “farm to fork” philosophy is a comprehensive food safety strategy which guarantees that the end recipient receives a safe, high-quality product.
With regard to principles established on the basis of the “farm to fork” concept, regulations relating to slaughter, cutting, processing and storage of poultry meat in the European Union as well as good production and hygiene practices can be divided into the following areas:
- raw materials – ongoing supervision exercised by a veterinarian and independent veterinary services which, on an ongoing basis, monitor compliance with hygiene and feeding regulations and monitor production plants from the time of livestock selection by supervising fodder production and any treatments applied in case of a disease.
- integrated control systems – technical, sanitary and hygienic regulations which establish the conditions of production and set out general production plant infrastructure, based on comprehensive quality standards, such as: HACCP, GMP, GHP, SPS, ISO. They facilitate maintenance of strict sanitary and hygienic conditions inside production plants, close supervision of individual stages of production, as well as detection and removal of any possible threats throughout the process;
- animal welfare – general conditions and parameters which establish the exact level of density of birds in a specific space, access to feeders, drinkers and appropriate ventilation, based on the principle of monitoring livestock health at all stages of production.
- transport, slaughter conditions and post-mortem processing – solutions in the scope of transporting and keeping livestock at slaughterhouses, and poultry slaughter principles, including: an obligation to reduce the duration of livestock transport to prevent any injuries and ante-mortem shock, to provide means of transport adjusted to animal transport, to comply with strict slaughter conditions in accordance with hygiene inspection systems in place, to carry out ante-mortem veterinary inspections of the stock and post-mortem inspections of poultry meat.
- sterile poultry packaging and labelling conditions focused on limiting direct contact between meat and air and protecting the meat from external mechanical and microbiological contamination, as well as providing comprehensive information about the entire production process on the label;
- distribution and sale focusing on providing the end consumer with meat that has been cooled and stored at the right temperature in accordance with the recommendations displayed on the label.
According to the established principles of the “farm to fork” concept, producers are obliged to use food safety management systems throughout the production chain in order to facilitate identification of its individual participants at all stages of production.
The activities carried out throughout the production process are reinforced by regular support initiatives, implemented centrally, such as: educational projects for consumers and producers in the EU, research and educational activities relating to food safety conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), programmes dedicated to hygiene and inspections carried out in EU states. Through regular food safety audits, producers and authorities can ensure that the “farm to fork” policy is consistently being implemented.
“Farm to fork” food production also serves as the basis for many local quality systems implemented within the European Union. These include, among others, the QAFP system, which is a guarantee to consumers that the manufacturer of poultry meat bearing the QAFP logo has satisfied a range of strict requirements to ensure high quality, the right structure and great taste of the final product.