The Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda closes the Interreg Europe QUALIFY project at the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site with a conference featuring international food fraud experts

The Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda in the Catalan Government has closed the four years of the Interreg Europe QUALIFY (Quality standards and authenticity to foster competitiveness of agri-food SMEs) project with a conference held on 4 May in the Magna Hall at Casa Convalescència in the Santa Creu i Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site in Barcelona. The speakers at this final conference included representatives from all the project's partner regions, the Interreg Europe programme secretariat and European Commission food fraud experts.

The event brought together around fifty participants from the Catalan agri-food sector who were welcomed by Mr. Joan Gòdia, Director General of Agri-food Companies, Quality and Gastronomy in the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda in the Catalan Government. Mr. Gòdia highlighted the importance of the fight against food fraud and improving the authenticity and quality of agri-food processes and products in Catalonia for SMEs, given that 98% of the Catalan agri-food sector is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Ms. Brume Delaunay, the policy officer of the Interreg Europe Secretariat, presented the state of play and future opportunities of the Interreg Europe Programme. Afterwards, Mr. Eric Marin, the Deputy Head of Hygiene and Food Fraud Unit of the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission, and Mr. Franz Ulberth, the Head of the Fraud Detection and Prevention Unit (until October 2022) at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, intervened by videoconference. The former talked about the EU Agri-Food Fraud network while the latter analysed the situation at the European level in terms of food fraud prevention and detection. Ms. Begoña Pérez, Director of the EIT Food Innovation Hub for Southern Europe, ended this block by setting out the trends, policies and innovation strategies for AgriTech and FoodTech in the European Union.

In the second part, the representatives of all the partner regions of the project presented the main results and conclusions after in-depth exchange of good practices and the development of their action plans. They reviewed the work carried out over the four years of the project and shared with the European Commission the lessons learned and progress achieved as part of it. The event was also a venue for discussion on the importance of food authenticity to make agri-food SMEs more competitive and analyse where official quality control and the fight against food fraud in the European Union should be heading.

This conference to close and publicise the results of the Interreg Europe Qualify project also showcased forthcoming initiatives derived from the partners' action plans which are to be rolled out and will make a difference in the agri-food sector.

Finally, Ms. Glòria Cugat, Deputy Director General for Agri-Food Transfer and Innovation in the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda in the Catalan Government, concluded the event by highlighting the knowledge gained and projects implemented in all partner regions through the QUALIFY project with the consequent constructive impact on the agri-food sector.

She also underlined the complexity and the enormous effort of adaptation made by the partners and all the stakeholders involved due to the context of the pandemic in order to undertake all the project's actions and achieve its objectives. Ms. Cugat stressed that the Government of Catalonia will continue to explore new opportunities for collaboration with project partners and other European entities in order to keep making progress in terms of innovation and the competitiveness of SMEs in the European agri-food sector in general and in Catalonia in particular. Finally, she concluded by thanking all the partners, the members of the QUALIFY strategic committee in Catalonia and the staff involved in the Sub-Directorate General.
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