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)

FVO report – Germany – Food Hygiene for primary production of FNAO and sprouting seeds

In this report published last December the EU Commission Food and Veterinary office reported some significant weaknesses in the official controls system for food of non animal origin and seeds for sprouting in Germany. The inspection was carried out in November 2013, so it is quite old: I expected better answers to the E.Coli crisis in 2011) from the German competent authorities.

The report describes the outcome of a Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) audit in Germany, carried out from 12 to 22 November 2013 under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004.

The objectives of the audit were to evaluate the system of official controls in the area of food hygiene for primary production of Food of Non-Animal Origin (FNAO) and the system of official controls in the area of traceability and import of seeds intended for sprouting and sprouts, microbiological criteria for them and the approval of sprouting establishments.

It was concluded that there are CAs designated for the official controls on hygiene in primary production of FNAO. The existing legal framework for the risk categorisation of FBOs does not take into account all the establishments which produce food of plant origin. This means that the official control system for primary production of FNAO does not fully take into account all risk sources and covers only post-harvest activities in a limited number of establishments. These controls do not cover the observance of hygiene requirements listed in Annex I of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. This means that the potential risks arising from microbiological contamination are not systematically taken into account in the planning of controls.

New EU legislation on seeds for sprouting and sprout producing establishments has not been adequately implemented with regard to the preliminary testing of batches of seeds before their release for processing as required by Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005.

(Source: DG Sanco website)