Analysis of Russia’s new Strategy on Food Quality

On June 29, 2016, a Strategy to Enhance Food Quality in the Russian Federation until 2030 (hereafter the Strategy) was approved by an Executive Order of the Russian Federation Government. 

The Strategy serves as the basis for designing a national food quality management system and is a key component in implementing the Basic Principles of the State Policy of the Russian Federation Regarding Healthy Nutrition until 2020 and Order 1259 of the President of the Russian Federation dated June 26, 2015.

The Strategy was developed by the Federal Service for Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor). The associates in developing the draft Executive Order were the Russian Federation Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Health, and other agencies.

The Strategy aims to ensure adequate nutrition, disease prevention, increased longevity, and a higher quality of life and to promote the production and marketing of proper, high-quality food.

According to the Strategy developers, compliance of foodstuffs produced with set mandatory requirements remains low, causing numerous consumer complaints. The suboptimal food consumption structure that occurs when consuming food with poor properties results in a lower quality of life and triggers diseases, including those associated with excessive consumption of saturated fats and foods with an unreasonably high caloric content and low nutritional value
The majority of modern approaches aimed at reducing the cost of production while generating higher profits, along with the magnitude of food adulteration, boil down to replacing authorized technology with a cheaper yet unauthorized equivalent; using inappropriate raw food materials; replacing biologically valuable macro- and micronutrients with less valuable ones; and using various technologies to bring the physical and chemical properties of foodstuffs into compliance with legal requirements. Such manipulation results in a fraudulent misinterpretation of the properties and origin of products, bringing about lower nutrition and biological value. It also contributes to unfair competition on the food market, thus putting bona fide producers at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, the unauthorized use of veterinary medicines intentionally administered to animals in the course of agricultural production contaminates food and affects human health (through infectious agents with new properties, more severe progress and consequences of infectious diseases, resistance to antibiotics, and an increase in the number and severity of allergies in consumers). Together these result in higher treatment costs, including the additional costs associated with the provision of complicated, specialized medical care. 

Establishing better food quality compliance monitoring is prevented, among other things, by inadequate quality identification methods and imperfections of the legal and institutional mechanisms regarding food quality. The situation is aggravated by the lack of a single information system, an inability to trace food quality throughout production and marketing, and the failure to detect the use of veterinary medicines and pesticides or to identify organizations responsible for each stage in food production and marketing.

In line with the issues identified, the goals of the Strategy are to enhance the quality of food as a key component in improving health; increase longevity and the quality of life; promote and encourage a higher demand for, and supply of, better quality food; and uphold consumers’ rights to purchasing quality products. The above goals of the Strategy are to be achieved by taking the following steps: 

 - Improve and further develop a food quality regulatory framework, including legal aspects related to effective compensatory mechanisms to ensure the protection of consumers’ rights.
- Improve and further develop a methodological framework to evaluate food quality compliance and ensure food quality monitoring.
- Strengthen food quality state regulations, including state monitoring (supervision), and pursue administrative action for any failure (of provider, seller, party performing the functions of foreign producer) to comply with food quality requirements.
- Establish a single information system to trace food production.
- Design and implement an effective food quality management system.
- Set up mechanisms to encourage production of food that is compliant with quality criteria and healthy nutrition principles.
- Establish the conditions for the production of new-generation foodstuffs with preset quality characteristics.
- Revive domestic production of food ingredients in the Russian Federation.
- Update current standards regarding the content of food additives, flavoring agents, bioactive substances, traces of veterinary medicines, and plant protection products such as pesticides in food products.
- Make research in nutrition a priority, including in the area of preventing the most commonly spread non-infectious diseases and developing technologies aimed at enhancing food quality.
- Establish public awareness campaigns to promote healthy nutrition principles.
For the purposes of implementing the Strategy, four types of mechanisms should be used: institutional and managerial, personnel and management, scientific and methodological, and financial and economic:
Institutional and managerial mechanisms include setting up a single information system to trace food from its origin to its end user; developing a public information system to monitor food quality; and setting up a food quality management system.  

Scientific and methodological mechanisms include setting up a system to arrange for research to establish food quality criteria and indicators; developing food production technologies that preserve its quality all the way from production to the end user; problem-oriented research to develop methods to identify food quality indicators and assess the risks of new contaminants of natural, technological, and human origin; fundamental, exploratory, and problem-oriented applied research intended to study the role of nutrition to prevent the most widespread noninfectious diseases; the creation of new-generation foodstuffs with predetermined quality characteristics and then studying their human health impacts. 
Financial and economic mechanisms include setting up the institutional and financial mechanisms needed to implement the Strategy, establishing a versatile set of incentives for food producers to encourage production of food with predetermined quality, and supporting domestic producers of food ingredients and bioactive substances.

The full text of the Strategy is available at the official government website.
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