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 However, out-of-date kits were in use in three establishments.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.

Italy: deficiencies in the bovine, ovine and caprine brucellosis eradication plans

The FVO (Food Veterinary Office) visited Italy from 7th to 15th October 2013 to evaluate the implementation of bovine, ovine and caprine brucellosis eradication programmes in the south of the MS. The audit team found severe deficiencies in the actual official controls system and in the national legislation. The report issued 11 recommendations to the competent Authorities.

“The objective of the audit was to evaluate the implementation of the bovine brucellosis and ovine and caprine brucellosis eradication programmes, approved by Commission Decision 2012/761/EU and associated animal and public health controls.

In addition to extraordinary measures foreseen for the eradication of brucellosis in the four Southern most affected regions, resources have been reinforced and further measures have been introduced in Calabria. Compulsory electronic identification in this region represent a major improvement in an environment of frequent illegal movements. The level of application and enforcement of the measures in Puglia was significantly lower, in part due to weaknesses in legislation in place at national level.

The complex movements between holdings, involving multiple dealers and fattening herds, of an unknown brucellosis status, represent a risk for the spread of the disease, which is insufficiently controlled, because of the non-application by the official services of the legal requirements for dealers, and the absence of channelling foreseen in the approved eradication plan.

Brucellosis cases are reliably detected at laboratories. Effective measures are taken in holdings when outbreaks are detected, but epidemiological investigations remain rudimentary and incomplete. The useful databases and tools available are not used to their full potential. The definition of epidemiological units in problematic areas was sometimes deficient, having a direct impact on the efficacy of the measures applied.

The specific zoonosis risk represented by the dairy establishments manufacturing products from non-pasteurised milk is insufficiently addressed by official controls. Illegal vaccination of adult buffaloes, with a potential to affect human health through milk, was detected; the current routine diagnostic tests are not adapted to identify such vaccinations.

The actions taken by the CA in the wake of the recommendations from previous FVO audits have not been implemented sufficiently to address most issues.”

Brucellosis is a contagious disease of livestock with significant economic impact.

The disease is caused by various bacteria of the family Brucella, which tend to infect a specific animal species. However, most species of Brucella are able to infect other animal species as well. It affects cattle, swine, sheep and goats, camels, equines, and dogs. It may also infect other ruminants, some marine mammals and humans.

The disease in animals is characterized by abortions or reproductive failure. While animals typically recover, and will be able to have live offspring following the initial abortion, they may continue to shed the bacteria.