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)

Food recalls in EU – Week 8/2016

Last week on EU RASFF (Rapid Alert System for food and feed) we can find the following relevant notifications:

1. Alerts followed by a recall from consumers:

  • Listeria monocytogenes (presence CFU/g) in organic falafel nuggets from the Netherlands, following an official control on the market. Notified by Netherlands, distributed also to Belgium, France, Ireland, Spain and United Kingdom;
  • Mercury (1.18 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen blue shark slices (Prionace glauca) from Spain, following company’s own check. Notified by Italy;
  • Salmonella (presence/25g) in raw milk brie cheese from France, following company’s own check. Notified by France, distributed also to Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Spain;
  • Salmonella Kentucky (present) in dried parsley from Egypt, following an official control on the market. Notified by Germany, distributed also to Belgium, Finland, France and Netherlands;
  • Traces of milk (casein 0.03 mg/item) in frozen fish gratin from Sweden, with raw material from Denmark, following company’s own check. Notified by Sweden, distributed also to Norway:
  • Undeclared milk ingredient in swiss rolls from Spain, following an official control on the market. Notified by United Kingdom, distributed also to Italy and Portugal;
  • Undeclared mustard and celery in spice mix from Sweden, following company’s own check. Notified by Sweden, distributed also to Finland, Norway and Denmark.

2. Information for attention/for follow up followed by a recall from consumers:

3. Alerts followed by a withdrawal from the market:

  • Listeria monocytogenes (570 CFU/g) in frozen smoked trout from Turkey, via Bulgaria, following an official control on the market. Notified by Netherlands;
  • Mercury (1.845 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen swordfish loins from Vietnam, via Belgium, following an official control on the market. Notified by Czech Republic, distributed also to Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia;
  • Plastic fragments in candy bars from the Netherlands, following company’s own check. Notified by Netherlands, distributed also to (see links embedded to reach some of the press release-public warning): Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, GreeceHong Kong, Hungary,  Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Morocco, Nepal, New Caledonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United KingdomWest Bank and Gaza Strip;
  • Unauthorised substance yohimbine in and insufficient labelling of food supplement from the United States, via Sweden, following an official control on the market. Notified by Norway;
  • Unauthorised substance yohimbine in food supplement from the United States, following an official control on the market. Notified by Norway, distributed also to Sweden.

4. Seizures:

5. Border rejections:

Country of notification Countries concerned Subject Action Taken
Italy Italy, United States (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 10.4; Tot. = 11.6 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled almonds from the United States re-dispatch
Ireland Ireland, Pakistan (O), United Kingdom aflatoxins (B1 = 15.7; Tot. = 16.4 µg/kg – ppb) in spice mix from Pakistan official detention
Italy China (O), Italy aflatoxins (B1 = 5.3; Tot. = 6.5 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled peanuts from China  
Italy Egypt (O), Italy aflatoxins (B1 = 92; Tot. = 107 / B1 = 5.1; Tot. = 5.9 µg/kg – ppb) in groundnuts from Egypt placed under customs seals
Germany Germany, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (Tot. = 51.3 µg/kg – ppb) in roasted pistachios and almonds from Turkey import not authorised
Belgium Belgium, Gambia (O) benzo(a)pyrene (7 µg/kg – ppb) in smoked sardinella (Sardinella spp.) from the Gambia import not authorised
Italy India (O), Italy cadmium (2.6 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen squid chunks from India import not authorised
United Kingdom South Korea (O), United Kingdom cadmium (2.9 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen squid (Nototodarus spp.) from South Korea import not authorised
United Kingdom Laos (O), United Kingdom, Vietnam high count of Escherichia coli (1000 CFU/g) in praew leaves (Vietnamese coriander – Polygonum odoratum) from Laos, via Vietnam destruction
Italy Italy, Thailand (O) mercury (0.11 mg/kg – ppm) in pet food from Thailand import not authorised
Italy Commission Services, Italy, Portugal, Vietnam (O) prohibited substance nitrofuran (metabolite) nitrofurazone (SEM) (1.43 µg/kg – ppb) in frozen pangasius fillets from Vietnam import not authorised
Greece Greece, India (O) Salmonella (in 1 out of 5 samples /25g) in hulled sesame seeds from India import not authorised
United Kingdom Laos (O), United Kingdom, Vietnam Salmonella (in 4 out of 5 samples /25g) and high count of Escherichia coli (620 CFU/g) in frozen perilla (Perilla frutescens) from Laos, via Vietnam destruction
Italy Italy, Vietnam (O) too high level of overall migration (141 mg/kg – ppm) from nitrile gloves (food contact materials) from Vietnam re-dispatch
Poland Japan (O), Poland unauthorised colour Rose Bengal in marinated bamboo shoots from Japan destruction
United Kingdom Thailand (O), United Kingdom unauthorised substance carbofuran (0.01 mg/kg – ppm) in aubergines from Thailand destruction
Italy India (O), Italy unauthorised substance propargite (0.29 mg/kg – ppm) in green tea from India placed under customs seals

(Source: RASFF Portal)