Raising food safety standards in Serbia while preserving tradition

©FAO/Balint Porneczi / FAO

Sremska Mitrovica, 18-December-2017 New regulations are set to improve food safety in the Serbian meat-processing sector while maintaining traditions and facilitating the trade of meat and processed meat products in the country.

The announcement was made by Serbia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management at an event organised by FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which gathered producers and other public and private groups.

In recent years, FAO and the EBRD have been supporting the Serbian government on food safety and quality standards with the aim of improving the competitiveness of meat products. The newly approved regulations on food safety include flexibility measures and derogations for small-scale meat producers, processors and distributors.

This will prove important in ensuring that small producers comply with food safety regulations, and will encourage the continued use and preservation of traditional production methods.

“This is an important development for our country’s meat industry as it will both raise food safety standards and preserve our production traditions,” said Branislav Nedimović, Serbia’s Minister of Agriculture and Water Management. 

In support of the new regulations, which will enter into force on 1 January 2018, the Veterinary Directorate of the Ministry, with the backing of the FAO-EBRD project, has produced guidelines for applying the flexibility measures, which were presented for the first time at the event.

According to Tamara Boskovic, Head of the Veterinary Public Health Department, “These guidelines will provide clear benefits for producers and also for consumers, as they will give a seal of approval, guaranteeing not only the quality of products, but above all, their hygiene safety.”

The guidelines describe the hygiene requirements for food businesses involved in slaughtering, meat cutting and product processing, in compliance with principles of good manufacturing and hygiene practices, hazard analyses and critical control points (HACCP).

“Upgrading food quality and safety standards at all stages of the value chain will make for a stronger, more inclusive meat sector in Serbia, attracting more investment and helping the country’s smallholders stay in the market,” said Miljan Zdrale, the EBRD head for CSEE, Agribusiness.

The event was also an occasion to promote the new voluntary quality scheme for food and agricultural products in Serbia – the Serbian Quality Label – supported by the project. The label certifies the origin of animals and stipulates that they be fed by GMO-free feed, while products must exhibit three quality characteristics to be differentiated from similar ones on the market.

“The Serbian Quality Label really will help differentiate products on the market,” said FAO economist Lisa Paglietti. “For Serbian meat producers, compliance with higher safety and quality standards is becoming increasingly important if they are to be competitive, and to broaden export market opportunities and increase economic returns in the sector.”

The Serbian Meat Quality Label is currently managed by the Meat Quality Association, and so far four meat processors have been granted the right to use the label on some of their products.