FVO Report – Italy deficiencies of official controls on milk and milk products

The following FVO report stress several and persistent profiles of non compliance of the Italian official controls system on milk and milk products: the recommendations made in 2010, 2012 and 2013 were not properly addressed.

The audit took place in Italy from 9 to 20 March 2015 in order to evaluate the official controls related to production and storage of milk and milk products, and the follow-up action taken by the competent authorities (CAs) in response to the relevant recommendations made in the previous audit reports.

Three Regions (Abruzzo, Puglia and Piemonte) were visited. Official controls are carried out frequently according to control plans, are risk based and well documented. However, the establishment reports contain very little relevant information and many deficiencies are overlooked. In addition, there is very little effective follow-up. Communication within local CA units remains poor. In the eight establishments visited, among the deficiencies found by the Food and Veterinary Office audit team, only a few had been identified and documented by the CA.

Audits (Article 4.6 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004) are carried out by central and Regional levels. The reports of these audits contain findings on non-compliances and systemic problems. Of the seven establishments visited (milk collection centre not included) in three Regions (six provinces) from the point of view of structure, maintenance, equipment, cleanliness and hygiene of operations, – four were satisfactory (with different levels of remarks and deficiencies) and three were unsatisfactory. There was no immediate public health risk. Serious deficiencies in official controls were observed on dairy holdings visited.

Raw milk quality standards (Section IX Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004): National derogations notified to the Commission for 2008 -2013 for all milk are still in place for sheep and goat milk. Food business operators (FBOs) take samples but these are not always analysed and laboratory performance is not always reliable. The CAs are not always notified of non-compliant results and there is no system in place to ensure notification – CA does take action when informed. There is no national system for official monitoring of FBO own checks related to raw milk parameters.

Residues: There were procedures in place for inhibitor controls in all establishments visited. However, out-of-date kits were in use in three establishments. The requirement to maintain records of treatment with veterinary medicines on milk production holdings is not enforced.

A number of recommendations have been made to the CA with a view of addressing the deficiencies identified during this audit. At least five of these or very similar recommendations have already been made in the Audit Report DG(SANCO)2010-8502, 2012-6333 and 2013-6875 but have not been properly addressed or implemented.

FVO Report – Sweden official controls over meat traceability and food frauds

The audit to Sweden was carried out from 14 to 24 April 2015. The main objective of the audit was to evaluate the operation of official controls over the traceability of meat (meat of domestic ungulates, poultry, lagomorphs and game meat), minced meat, mechanically separated meat (MSM), meat preparations, meat products (hereafter referred to as meat and products thereof), and composite products containing meat and products thereof and other ingredients.

Particular attention was paid to the traceability, labelling and identification systems of meat and products thereof, and to composite products containing meat and products thereof and traceability of quantities of each ingredient used. The official control procedures require all establishments to be controlled, at least every five years, in all areas of applicable legislation. Risk based controls are split between the different inspections/audits that take place during the five year period. In the current five year official control plan traceability is scheduled to be covered twice.

The CCA is currently implementing actions in relation to traceability following the horse meat scandal and the discovery of certain food fraud in Sweden. These actions aim to increase the awareness of FBOs and officials in charge of controls. They concern the following areas:

  • creation of a food fraud unit;
  • specific training for staff to new control methods (180 inspectors on training);
  • identification of non-registered FBOs;
  • revision of the Swedish food act to re-enforce its efficiency, particularly concerning penal sanctions;
  • joint NFA-Stockholm municipality project to improve traceability controls and avoid overlapping (to be carried out between May and September 2015).

The Swedish CCA has already drawn certain lessons from the recent meat scandals and is undertaking specific actions to increase the efficiency of the control system. Significant work remains to be done.

In all the establishments visited, the food business operators stated that a traceability system was in place. However, the evaluation of these systems revealed a less positive picture concerning traceability in general and quantitative traceability in particular. In one cold store a robust traceability system was already in place. Two establishments were making good progress towards implementing a good system but the others still had significant progress to make. Two establishments had yet to start work on implementing a traceability system.

At the start of the audit, the FVO audit team chose 14 different food (meat based) samples at retail level. The CCA was asked to carry out a quantitative traceability of these samples in co-operation with the FBOs concerned. These exercises were far from successful: out of 14 samples, the CAs and the FBOs concerned could only establish 4 complete chains of traceability supported by the documented evidence. In the other cases significant documents relating to traceability were missing.

The FVO audit team also paid attention to the traceability and the use of additives in meat preparations and meat products. In general the situation was satisfactory but certain misuses were noted in some establishments. Nitrites and phosphates are allowed in “traditional products” which, in the absence of specific national rules/guidance, has the potential to include any pork or beef meat injected with curing solution (including in the initial phase of the maturing process).

The report makes a number of recommendations to the Swedish CA with a view to addressing the deficiencies identified during this audit.