Food safety throughout the years

20-5-year anniversary

1997 – 2017

Marise Hop and Twan Hellings

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In 1997, there weren’t any fresh cooled pizzas.

Veggie meatballs weren’t readily available and the chip shop just sold chips. We now think it is normal to be able to order soups, salads, and yoghurt shakes.

The authorities that monitored the local market stalls weren’t organised yet and were called –among others- Inspectorate for Health Protection and Veterinary Public Health or GIS. We come from a time without mandatory food safety systems such as HACCP. Retailers didn’t pose high quality demands.

You read the news in the paper.

Written and printed information was what counted. Most of the food scandals didn’t make it into the news, or at most in the form of an advertisement. Sharing this type of information wasn’t in the best interest of the authors and, technically speaking, difficult. Social media, computers and online information components weren’t in play. Nowadays, information is distributed much faster. This can also be seen in the production. If something went wrong in the past then we didn’t find out quickly and data was more difficult to trace.

Brand image

Leading companies like Coca-Cola also suffered damage. It was mostly just a matter of recalling products and warning consumers.

Brands didn’t suffer as much damage to their image. Damages claims were relatively unusual. The 1997 swine fever cost the lives of 9,5 million pigs. This effected sales prices, giving rise to questions on animal welfare.

The EU

The European Union became a reality with the 1993 Maastricht Treaty. At the end of the nineties, the influence of the EU became more noticeable. The Dutch guilder eventually made way for the euro. Free trade increased. Smaller companies suffer from competitors that can quickly produce larger quantities. The impact is greater when things go wrong.


The power of computers grew quickly after the year 2000. It becomes easier to conduct analyses, make graphs and share trends and information. Data can be read from a distance (for example via GPS and readout of temperature loggers). Internet begins to play a meaningful role, although many are not yet aware of this medium’ possibilities.


From 2000 on, retailers begin making demands on their suppliers. Norms ensure that retailers know at what level their suppliers are performing. Various advanced techniques made their way into production, including the metal detector. Therefore, checking food safety and quality becomes easier. Also, digital platforms for specification management, RASFF database and digital systems for pest control have developed in recent years. Not only food safety systems, but also the way of selling has changed thanks to the Internet.

What will the next twenty years bring us?

Have we sparked an interest in the history of food safety?
An E-book on the subject is on its way!
Subscribe to our magazine and we’ll let you know as soon as the e-book becomes available.



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