EU food safety alerts down by 5 per cent

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety European union

Tougher measures against illegal dyes and a more harmonised
criteria for detecting pathogens have led to a 5 per cent drop in
EU food safety alerts, the European Commission said yesterday.

EU national regulators sent 6,840 notifications across the bloc of food and feeds found to be unsafe during 2006, a 5 per cent drop compared to 2005, according to an annual report on how the system is working. "The drop can be explained largely by effective measures taken to address illegal dyes and the application of new European criteria for certain pathogenic microbes, replacing the diverse national criteria that were in place until then,"​ the European Commission stated. The crackdown has meant processors have had to be more careful about sourcing their ingredients, or find their supplies have been delayed or stopped at the border due to contamination problems. The system, run by the European Commission, provides a means for national regulators to issue alerts to counterparts across the bloc about possible problems in foods and animal feeds. About 21 per cent of alerts were issued about fishery products, 13 per cent concerned meat and meat products and 12 per cent targeted cereals and bakery items. About 45 per cent of notifications to the EU's food and feed alert network were blocked at the border, the report stated. EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou said the statistics show that border controls are working effectively to prevent unsafe food products from entering the EU's borders. "Europe's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed plays a central role in ensuring a high level of food safety for EU citizens,"​ he said. "It allows us to stop food safety crises before they begin, and identify problems at an early stage, thereby minimising potential health threats."​ The report breaks down the overall number of notifications in 2006 into 934 alerts and 1,989 information notifications. Alert notifications are sent when the food or feed presenting the risk is already on the market and immediate action is required. About 62 per cent of alert notifications in 2006 related to products originating in the EU, and most of these problems were detected by controls carried out on the market, the Commission stated. Among the risks most reported through such alerts were the presence of potentially pathogenic micro-organisms, heavy metals such as mercury in fish and mycotoxins. Information notifications are sent when a risk has been identified but immediate action by other member states is not necessary as the product has not reached their market. About 75 per cent of information notifications were on products originating from non-EU countries, and 40 per cent of these related to mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins in nuts. The report also outlines the Commission's future plans to improve the reporting system. The Commission is currently working on working with other government to establish a worldwide rapid alert system for food safety. The members of the alert system include all of the EU's 27 members, plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

Related topics Regulation