Top ten 2018 articles and Foodlawlatest.com achievements

Dear readers,

At the end of 2018, foodlawlatest.com ranked 2nd in the category Niche and Specialty niche_and_specialty_-_2nd_place_badgeLaw Blog in the blog contest launched by the Expert Institute.

Thank you for all your support and for your votes.

After 5 years of activity is time to give you some numbers.

This year we proudly served more than 100 clients, on 3 continents (EU, North America, Asia) and we gathered readers from more than 160 countries.

Our LinkedIn group, with much more info and updates, is now including more than 4.000 food professionals and we launched with success our first massive online webinar (on FDA labeling).

Just as we speak we are gathering subscriptions for the next webinar’s wave and soon there will be much more: guest speakers from around the world will introduce you to food law in the major markets (a hint: the 1st one will be on the upcoming new Chinese labeling legislation…). From fall 2018 I am as well guest instructor for online courses of the Michigan State University Institute for Food Laws and Regulations.

Now we are a team of 5 here in Torino’s office and we cover more than 60 markets through local partners and contractors. In 2019 we would like to scale up, refresh the website and publish more frequently, launch a YouTube channel and bring to the surface the huge network and the different skills that we might put on the plate when it comes to offer you a strategic advice in marketing food. Two major publications on food labeling (in English) are as well in the pipeline.

Between our major partners, I’d like already to quote (and thank for the great support and exchange of knowledge):

  • MoniQa: MoniQA is an international and interdisciplinary network of professionals from institutions working in food research, regulatory bodies and trade, providing solutions to promote a safer and secure food supply worldwide. The main focus of the association is on food allergen management and food fraud prevention and I sit in the Scientific Advisory Committee;
  • Arcadia International: Arcadia is a multi-disciplinary consultancy dedicated to the food and feed value chain and is also recognized as expert by several European Commission Directorate-Generals for agriculture and food related activities. In particular a mention goes to my great friend Francesco Montanari, food lawyer in Lisbon/Paris;
  • ShantallaJohn G. Keogh: Shantalla provides retainer-based advisory services and project-based research for clients in the public and private sectors globally, on topics like:
    • Strategy & Policy Advisory
    • Supply Chain Integrity incl. Traceability and Brand Protection
    • Product and Consumer Safety incl. Recall
    • Supply Chain Transparency & Consumer Trust
    • Sustainability, Compliance & Governance
    • Industry Standards (GS1)
    • Technology Advisory incl. IoT & Blockchain Use Cases

Coming back to our blog, the most read articles in 2018 – in case you missed them – were the following:

  1. EFSA – Consumer perceptions of emerging risks in the food chain
  2. Food fraud update at EU level and Interpol/Europol Opson VII operation preliminary findings
  3. Vietnam – New Criminal Code provides stricter sanctions for food safety violations
  4. QeA EU Parliament – EU Commission to EU Parliament on Meat Sounding
  5. QeA EU Commission to EU Parliament – Allergens declaration on non pre-packed food
  6. EU Audit in Belgium on organic production and labeling – Are we still surprised of “organic frauds”?
  7. EU Study on Food Waste and Date Marking published
  8. FDA finalizes the extension of the compliance dates for new Nutrition Facts
  9. Food Law in Asia and Food Law in US Conference (Rome 16-17th April 2018)
  10. Hard times for industrial trans fats: EU upcoming legal limit and FDA moves

Please let us know what we can do more or better and thank you for your continuous support!

Cesare

EU Audit in Belgium on organic production and labeling – Are we still surprised of “organic frauds”?

Here below the summary of the above mentioned audit report:

“This report describes the outcome of a DG Health and Food Safety audit in Belgium, carried out between 19 September 2017 to 29 September 2017, under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official food and feed controls.

The objective of the audit was to evaluate the controls on organic production and labelling of organic products.

The control system for organic production in Belgium is only partially in place. There is no competent authority responsible for import controls of organic goods, and market controls only cover follow up of complaints and control bodies are not annually supervised by all regional competent authorities.

Although inspections by control bodies at operators are overall effective and the number of additional and unannounced inspections and sampling by control bodies goes far beyond EU requirements, enforcement is weak, in particular, in cases of severe and recurrent irregularities.

This, together with the fact that the likelihood of irregularities are neither reported to competent authorities nor fully investigated by them reduces the effectiveness of the control system.”

This report highlights some typical factors that increase the likelihood of frauds in the organic sector:

  • weak import controls are the main gate for fraudulent activities. The organic market is assuming a huge dimension in EU and we cannot rely on internal production to cover the needs of raw materials. Certain commodities are in large parte – or mainly – imported: this is the case for instance of many grains and cereals, lentils, tree nuts…
  • the hybrid nature of the control bodies (CBs) is a major weakness as well: in most Member States they are private bodies invested of a public function (namely do the controls for the competent authorities). That means that they have the obligation to report irregularities to the competent authorities (CAs), but they are also competing hard with other CBs to survive on the market. Therefore they could be not so keen to share information about investigations, especially on sensitive cases, with the CAs. They often tend to protect the certified food business operators, that to a certain extent are also their “clients”;
  • the weak supervision of the CAs on the CBs can foster illegality and in any case allows a less transparent management of non compliance cases, for reasons explained in point 2.

The good news is that in most countries the number of inspections is above EU requirements and that they are unannounced, but in our experience on the ground in several Member States the CBs are too focused on paperwork and much less on the fields. An illegal treatment of crops might be spotted much better from a walk beneath them, than from a registry.

Consumers and regulators often rely on labeling and traceability as tools to prevent similar frauds (conventional food passed as organic, country of origin different from what declared), but since these tool are only “paper” they are quite easy to fake for any experienced fraudster. Moreover, they increase the final costs of the products, increasing as well incentives for fraudsters.

The organic sector is mainly involved in what we can call “commercial frauds”: they involve quality and usually are not likely to cause any risk for the public health. As a consequence, in my opinion, this could be one of the sectors where new technologies that might secure transactions along the supply chain and reinforce traceability, including blockchain, should be applied first and get the better added value.