The EURSAFF database presents the number of recalls and safety notifications recorded at their ports. This paper attempts to put these raw numbers in a context that accounts for the amount of trade the exporting country does with the EU. Therefore, we have retrieved trade data from Eurostat external trade statistics for food (European Commission, 2011), which classifies traded products using the WTO’s Harmonized System Codes. Table G-2 presents the criteria used to draw data from Eurostat, and lists the Harmonized System Codes we included.
Each safety alert in the database contains a short description of the product, origin countries, transit countries and the reason for the notification. This study used a coding system to categorize the type of threat reported and the place on the supply chain where it might have occurred. Briefly, the risk code refers to the reason that the product was rejected. This suspected risk can be microbial, chemical, physical, mycotoxins, or problems in processing or labeling. There is also another category that was used for rejections that resisted classification, or unclear records. Table G-3 describes the risk codes, labeled A-Y.
The supply chain categorizes the point at which the product became unsuitable for human consumption. This may have occurred at any point between the farm and the port. In most cases it is not explicit where on the supply chain contamination occurred, these entries are coded as 0. Table G-4 shows how the coder combined risk codes and supply chain codes.
The quality of the publicly available data is one major limitation of this study. Also, the reasons for the safety alert and recall are recorded in free text; there is no standard language used for reporting in these databases. Some notes are ambiguous or confusing. For example, “unauthorized usage” of certain ingredients in food production can be interpreted as an administrative issue when a novel food ingredient was introduced without approval. It might also be a violation of using prohibited chemicals as food additives or dyes. The coding matrix also has limitations. Some cases can
1 Laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety. Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002, art. 50. The European Parliament and the Council of Europe (28 January 2002).