Written Q&A to EU Commission – Food frauds and FVO powers

Question for written answer to the Commission 

Marc Tarabella (S&D) , Jean Louis Cottigny (S&D)

Subject:  Range of FVO audits

Could the Commission broaden the range of the Food & Veterinary Office (FVO) audits so that they cover food fraud?

Does the Commission share the view that the FVO and the Member States should carry out regular unannounced, independent and mandatory inspections in order to detect intentional infringements and ensure that the most stringent food safety standards are met?

In order to restore and maintain consumer confidence, it is important to be transparent as regards the manner in which official inspections and checks are carried out, and also to publish the reports or findings on the checks and inspections conducted on operators in the food industry.

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission (21st February 2014)

Through its audits, the FVO assesses whether the controls in place in Member States to verify compliance with the EU agri-food chain rules deliver effectively and allow proper enforcement. In doing so, it also identifies potential weak points in official controls along the food chain, or the governing legal framework, which may provide opportunities for potential irregularities.

Member States’ official controls to verify compliance with the agri-food chain rules are unannounced (Regulation (EC) No 882/2004). The proposed Regulation on official controls, currently discussed by the co-legislators, introduces and expands that principle to regular controls directed at identifying intentional violations. As regards FVO audits, the current legislation does not mandate it to carry out unannounced inspections. Moreover, the Commission considers that the Member States themselves are better placed to carry out such inspections on the basis of their on-the-ground intelligence, and their investigative powers.

Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 already requires Member States to make control information available to the public. The proposal referred to above requires competent authorities to publish regularly and timely information on official controls, non-compliances, and measures or penalties applied. Moreover, competent authorities will be enabled to make publicly available the outcome of controls performed on individual operators and information about their scoring against food chain law requirements (e.g. ‘smileys’). As regards the audits of the FVO, the Commission underlines that the results of these are published routinely, and since 1998.

© European Union, 2014 – Source: European Parliament

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