The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » Monthly - January 27, 2011
Polish Food: Tasty and Healthy
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Special Section: Polska.... tastes good! Polish Food: Tasty and Healthy
   
By Marek Sawicki, PhD, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

For several years consumers in Europe have been going back to food produced in traditional ways. The same is happening in Poland. Poles above all want to buy Polish food. This was true before Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and the trend is continuing after the EU’s internal borders opened, with the free movement of goods and services now standard.

It is worth noting that even foreign retail chains operating in Poland advertise the foodstuffs they offer as produced in Poland or with the use of Polish products. The aim is to provide the consumer with an additional guarantee of quality—that is, excellent taste and food safety.

“Healthy food” is a frequently used term. But foodstuffs should not be termed “healthy” or “unhealthy” since no food product admitted to trade can be harmful. The law prevents that. The notion “healthy food” is often overused for marketing purposes, in order to boost sales. So what determines the exceptional value and market success of Polish foodstuffs?
The quality, including the excellent taste and culinary value of Polish foodstuffs are appreciated by Polish buyers as well as large numbers of foreign customers. This is demonstrated by the success of the Polish food sector at trade fairs, as well as by the prestigious awards Polish producers receive on other occasions.

At any trade fair or exhibition involving Polish participants, Polish stands feature information on quality Polish food distinguished by the Try Fine Food (Poznaj Dobrą Żywność) label, and organic, traditional and regional products.

The constantly growing exports of Polish agricultural produce prove that Europe and other international markets are increasingly interested in Polish foodstuffs. Poland is promoting its products more and more dynamically, expanding to new markets. For example, annual exports of Polish poultry have reached a record 400,000 metric tons. We hope that young Polish oat-fed geese, produced in line with EU and the Polish National Poultry Council regulations, will soon be as popular as American turkey.

Poland is also a producer of other types of meat. Despite the widespread opinion that red meat has a lower nutritional value, which has led to a significant drop in the consumption of pork or beef products, producers decided to prove that these products can be of high quality, tasty and easy to cook.

In October 2008 Poland adopted the Quality Meat Program (QMP) as the national food quality system that meets the conditions for granting support within the Rural Development Program 2007-2013. The QMP is the first recognized system in the meat industry, the second national system developed by business associations and the third national food quality system, after “Integrated Production” and “Quality and Tradition.”

Owing to the new standards, it is easier to recognize the QMP logo, and consumers may rest assured that all the products labeled this way meet strict quality criteria and are easily identified.

The system of high quality beef production (QMP) was developed and implemented by the Polish Association of Beef Cattle Breeders and Producers in collaboration with researchers from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW) and the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn. The QMP system starts from the pen and production standards apply to cattle, feed, transport and meat.


Beef obtained from Polish cattle is of high quality and its promotion and proper labeling will ensure competitive prices for Polish producers. In September 2010 the Agricultural Market Agency signed a contract with the Polish Meat Association for running an information campaign on pork meat produced in line with the national Pork Quality System (PQS). The Polish Pig Breeders’ and Producers’ Association POLSUS is a partner for the system. Domestic funds have been assigned to this purpose, including from the Pork Meat Promotion Fund, as well as EU financial support. Participants in the integrated high quality pork meat production system have undertaken to produce meat of exceptional taste and culinary and processing value. The system guarantees supervision over the entire production process, from the farm to the final product.

Meat bearing the PQS label is intended for demanding customers. High quality foodstuffs are distinguished by the Try Fine Food label. The label is intended to help customers choose the products that are best suited to them. At the same time, Poland is meeting an EU goal in terms of food production—expanding the pool of high quality products and diversity of food products on the Common Market.

The success of Polish producers was determined by the skillful combination of traditional tastes resulting from the rich Polish culinary tradition with top quality achieved with the use of state-of-the-art technology. The market itself forces manufacturers to respect tradition. Poles know what is good and look for good, healthy foodstuffs produced using traditional recipes. And Polish producers have to meet consumer expectations if they want to stay on the market and develop their business. That is why on the one hand, Polish producers have been investing intensely in the latest food processing technology and, on the other, they are particularly careful not to lose sight of the exceptional value of Polish food in the era of technological modernization. It is worth noting that owing to modernization efforts in meat and milk processing plants before Poland’s EU accession, these businesses are now among the most advanced in Europe and the world.

The recognition and confirmation of the exceptional value of Polish foodstuffs is demonstrated by the fact that Poland has registered 23 products in the EU system of protected designation of origin, protected geographical indication and traditional speciality guaranteed. Thirteen more Polish products are awaiting registration by the European Commission.

Organic farming is yet another sector of the Polish agrifood industry that is steadily gaining importance. These products are aimed at the growing number of consumers who seek top quality products produced using methods that significantly reduce the industry’s negative impact on the environment. Owing to a major effort by numerous bodies and to financial support from the domestic and EU budgets, the organic product sector has developed significantly. When Poland joined the EU in 2004, it had fewer than 4,000 accredited organic producers. That number had grown to some 20,000 by the end of 2010.

It is worth noting that, apart from accredited organic farms, Poland has many small farms that do not use industrial-scale technology or apply chemical agents intensively. That also impacts on the quality of Polish foodstuffs.

The work of Polish food market supervising bodies also contributes to the reputation of Polish food.

In order to make better use of the experience gained by these services and of their research facilities, we plan to consolidate them this year. The move will involve the Agricultural and Food Quality Inspectorate, the Inspectorate of Plant Health and Seed Protection and the Main Veterinary Inspectorate. The emerging Food Safety and Veterinary Inspectorate will be a single, more efficient and effective service ensuring top food safety standards.