Milica Stefanović, President Of The FIC Food & Agriculture Committee (The Coca-Cola Company-Barlan S&M d.o.o.):

Significant Progress Achieved

Major breakthroughs have been made in the previous period on complex issues, such as amending the Law on Inspection Oversight and understanding the need for amendments to the Food Safety Act

Food safety is a fundamental issue of our industry, as well as of all players in the field of legislation, supervision and production. We live in times when trust in institutions is at a very low level globally, while we are surrounded by information and disinformation related to food safety, principles of proper nutrition, ideas about what is healthy and what isn’t. All of these circumstances ensure this issue is extremely complex, even more so given that these issues concern everyone; we all depend on the availability of food and want only the best and healthiest food for ourselves and our families.

We are fortunate in our country that we have an abundance of high-quality and affordable foods, and major breakthroughs have been made in the previous period on complex issues such as amending the Law on Inspection Oversight, understanding the need to amend the Law on Food Safety and, no less importantly, establishing a dialogue between the state and producers. All this benefits all of us, as food consumers who need to trust that the food around us is safe, properly declared and responsibly advertised.

A very important step was made in opening the Ministry of Agriculture up towards industry via dialogue that was established for mutual benefit. Together we overview the obstacles that confront manufacturers in their work and seek the best solutions.

Another long-awaited advancement was achieved with the complete application of the Plant Protection Act, which removed a large previously grey zone when it comes to safety and the proper use of plant protection products.

Thanks to dialogue between the Ministry of Agriculture and industry, we today jointly view obstacles that producers encounter in their work and seek the best solutions

This is a sector where the legislation is most often in place – harmonised with European law, defined by regulations and other bylaws. However, most problems occur in application. Whether that comes down to different interpretations of legislation by different implementation bodies or long-term inconsistent application of certain parts of acts, all of which creates unnecessary space for potential problems and misunderstandings, but also unpredictability in terms of the working conditions of manufacturers. One such issue is the payment of laboratory analysis costs, for which we now know the Ministry is working on a solution that should eliminate this disparity between regulation and practise. Considering that this issue impacts directly on the costs of doing business, we hope that as manufacturers we will have the opportunity to participate in the dialogue before adoption, in order for us to immediately come up with an optimal solution for all parties.

Managing food safety on the basis of risk analysis (which is currently applied only in the veterinary field) certainly remains a huge area that producers gathered in the FIC Food & Agriculture Committee expect the Ministry to succeed in establishing in the coming period. This, along with essential amendments to the Law on Food Safety and accompanying bylaws that would harmonise the whole area with European regulations, is part of a continuous process of improving procedures, creating a predictable business environment for responsible producers and freeing up the state capacity to deal with oversight of risky producers. And all of this should lead to all of our consumers having full confidence in the whole chain that brings food to their table, foods of controlled quality, with accurate declarations and other related information important when choosing food.