EU DG Health and Food Safety audit in Sweden – Unexpected flaws in microbial safety of food of non-animal origin

Here below the summary of a recent audit of the EU Commission services on the Swedish official control system for food of non animal origin (in particular frozen food and sprouts/seeds for sprouting). Beside the detected shortcomings, is quite unusual to notice that from internal audits from 2014 and from EU Commission audit in 2015, nothing or little improvements have been made.

“This report describes the outcome of a DG Health and Food Safety audit in Sweden which took place from 18 September to 27 September 2018 under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and the Council of 29 April 2004.

The objectives of the audit were to assess:

 the system of official controls in the area of food hygiene to prevent microbiological contamination in the production of food of non-animal origin, notably as frozen products and sprouts and seeds intended for sprouting;

 the extent to which the corrective actions submitted to the Commission services in response to the recommendations of the previous Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety audit report of 2015 have been implemented and their effectiveness in addressing the identified shortcomings.

Overall, a risk-based control system for official controls on food of non-animal origin is in place. There is a system for registering primary producers and for the approval of sprout-producing establishments. This facilitates the implementation of a risk-based approach to official controls including microbial risks associated with food of non-animal origin.

Regarding official samples, the appropriate laboratory capability and capacity is available.

Significant shortcomings were identified in relation to the registration of food business operators and approval of sprout-producing establishments. The approval system does not ensure that noncompliances have been rectified before that approval is granted. In addition, the official control system presents a number of gaps, notably related to provision of specific instructions, technical support and staff training. As a result, official controls cannot be implemented correctly and effectively, resulting in poor controls. This impacts on the enforcement, where non-compliances are hardly detected and when detected are rarely followed-up.

A number of these shortcomings were equally reflected in the outcome of an internal audit performed by the Central Competent Authority
in June 2018, and which found little corrective action since the previous internal audit, in 2014.

Thus, non-compliant products might be undetected and the correct application of the relevant legislation might not be enforced, resulting in placing on the market of non-compliant products which may present a health risk.

In respect of the follow-up to the previous audit, certain actions have not been effective in addressing the identified shortcomings. Overall, the audit had to conclude that there has been limited improvement compared to what was found previously.”

(Source: DG Sante website)

Glycaemic index labeling and related claims

The EU Commission just answered to a Member of the European Parliament query about the chance to do glycaemic index claims on the labels in EU.

The answer is interesting in the sense that opens half a door to national interpretation by competent authorities about the issue.

Please do share your thoughts and experience regarding this interpretation of the EU Commission and national enforcement. This would be of great help to many peers.

29th November 2018 – Question for written answer E-006064-18 to the Commission

Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods lays down the criteria to be met by such claims. This would appear to cover glycaemic index labelling, which provides important indications regarding the metabolic effects of a given food product.

In this connection, it appears that 16 applications for health claim authorisations seeking to establish a link between the glycaemic index of a food or food ingredient and its effects on health have apparently been rejected.

Can the Commission say whether glycaemic index food labelling falls under Regulation (EC) 1924/2006?

If not, what provisions apply to glycaemic index labelling?

24th January 2019 – Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the European Commission

The Commission considers claims referring to the glycaemic index (GI) of a food as falling under the scope of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 (1).

In the context of the assessment of health claims applications on carbohydrates with a low GI, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) considered that carbohydrates with a low GI are not sufficiently characterised. EFSA further explained that ‘the GI of a carbohydrate-containing food depends on several factors other than the amount of available (glycaemic) carbohydrates present (e.g. amount and type of dietary fibre, amount of dietary fat, energy density, physical properties, mode of preparation) […]’ (2).

Nevertheless, EFSA assessed in the past with a favourable outcome several health claims on the reduction of post-prandial glycaemic response as the specific health benefit. The latter is reflected in the authorised wording of the corresponding permitted health claims (3).

When enforcing EC law in this context, Member States may allow GI-claims accompanied by or similar to the authorised claims on post-prandial glycaemic response within the limits set by Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.

(1) https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32006R1924&from=en
(2) https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1491
(3) Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:02012R0432-20170822&from=EN

(Source: EU Parliament)

Some examples of actual authorised health claims on the reduction of post-prandial glycaemic response:

  1. Consumption of beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of a meal contributes to the reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal

(The claim may be used only for food which contains at least 4 g of beta-glucans from oats or barley for each 30 g of available carbohydrates in a quantified portion as part of the meal. In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained by consuming the beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of the meal).

2. Consumption of arabinoxylan as part of a meal contributes to a reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal

(The claim may be used only for food which contains at least 8 g of arabinoxylan (AX)-rich fibre produced from wheat endosperm (at least 60 % AX by weight) per 100 g of available carbohydrates in a quantified portion as part of the meal. In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained by consuming the arabinoxylan (AX)-rich fibre produced from wheat endosperm as part of the meal).