Health Fragility: A Disturbing Alert for a Society in Protest

Health - March 18, 2024

Amidst the daily hustle and bustle, a grim warning has shaken the tranquil tables of Spanish households: a batch of strawberries from Morocco, infected with the hepatitis A virus, has been intercepted before reaching the shelves of our supermarkets. This news has revealed an uncomfortable truth about the fragility of our food control systems.

It is undeniable that the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) plays an essential role in communicating potential threats to public health. However, the recurrence of such alerts highlights a worrying reality: while authorities strive to safeguard the quality of local products, controls over non-EU food seem to slip through the crack of negligence.

In this context, it is inevitable to question the disparity in measures between domestic and imported products. While our farmers are required to meet rigorous standards of quality and hygiene, goods from third countries enter with notably lax inspection. Is it fair that the efforts of our own industry are overshadowed by the lack of scrutiny over imports?

The recent incident with Moroccan strawberries is not only a wake-up call regarding the need to strengthen border controls but also a reflection of the palpable tensions in the Spanish agricultural sector. Field protests, fueled by unfair competition from cheaper foreign products, find in this alert a compelling argument.

While national farmers raise their voices in protest, demanding tangible and concrete solutions, the incident serves as a catalyst to question the equity in inspection standards between local and foreign products.

The mass gathering of farmers, backed by the Union of Unions, to march on Madrid on March 17th, is a poignant testimony to the accumulated frustration in the sector. “There is no reason to put away the tractors and go back home,” declares Luis Cortés, state coordinator of the Union of Unions, emphasizing the persistence of unresolved issues. The demonstration, under the slogan “We still have plenty of reasons”, reflects the determination of the agricultural community to be heard, not only in defense of their interests but in the guarantee of safe and affordable food for all.

From the sector, they warn that these protests will continue until their demands are comprehensively addressed. “Protests in the field will continue until Planas sits down with the true representatives of farmers and offers more than just patches,” emphasizes Cortés, making it clear that patience is running out and concrete actions are essential to remedy the situation.

Nevertheless, voices have risen, both from the political sphere and society, demanding a total ban on imports of Moroccan strawberries, ignoring that the problem does not lie in the nationality of the product but in the lack of effective supervision at our borders.

It is essential to recognize that responsibility does not solely lie with exporting countries but also with our own shortcomings. The recent denunciation by the Valencian Association of Farmers regarding the risk of contamination through irrigation with faecal waters is an urgent reminder that food safety issues transcend borders. It is imperative that our authorities take drastic measures to prevent future episodes of this kind.

Ultimately, the health and well-being of citizens cannot be sacrificed for commercial convenience. It is time for competent authorities to recognize the urgency of strengthening border controls and improving supervision throughout the food chain. Only then can we ensure the safety and confidence in the food that reaches our tables, regardless of its origin.