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CONSUMERS : FOOD ALERT SYSTEM WORKING WELL - REPORT.

In 2012, there were 8,797 notifications via the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), a decrease of 3.9% from 2011. Of this total, 526 alert notifications concerned serious risks detected in products on the market, a 14% decrease compared with 2011. These findings are announced in the annual report on the RASFF, published by the European Commission, on 10 June. It also states that nearly 50% of notifications concerned food and feed rejections at EU borders due to the risk they posed to food safety.

In his comments, Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg mentioned the horsemeat scandal that made recent headlines, even though it occurred outside the period covered by the report. He noted that "food safety authorities throughout the EU were able to swiftly exchange information. As a result, the products were traced and withdrawn from the market". The commissioner announced that the executive "is considering extending the scope of RASFF to the fight against food fraud". This would involve setting up a procedure for rapid alert and information exchange ona cases of potential food fraud.

Of the 3,516 original RASFF notifications in 2012, 332 concerned feed (9.4%) and 299 concerned food contact materials (8.5%). These figures are similar to those for 2011. The bulk of notifications (2,885) concerned food.

When a dangerous product is detected, the RASFF informs the third country in question so that it can take corrective measures. If a serious and persistent problem is identified, the Commission asks the authorities of the country concerned to take measures, such as striking the establishments in question off the lists of those authorised to export to the EU, blocking exports or stepping up controls.

AN EXAMPLE

In September 2012, the Czech food safety authority signalled to the RASFF cases of methanol poisoning occurring after the victims had consumed on-tap spirits. The adulteration of the spirits had tragic consequences, leading to 36 fatalities. The Czech authority used the RASFF to inform its European partners swiftly and keep them updated on its investigations and measures.

The RASFF, an IT tool put in place more than 30 years ago, allows rapid information sharing between member states and the Commission when a risk to human health is detected in the human or animal food chain. All RASFF members (EU27, Commission, European Food Safety Authority, EFTA Surveillance Authority, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland) provide round-the-clock service.

Further information is available at ec.europa.eu/food/food/rapidalert/index_en.htm

Horse meat: New tests?

Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said, on 10 June, that he was in favour of organising a second series of tests at EU level to detect the possible presence of horse meat in food products and of products banned in horse carcasses. A first series of tests were carried out in the 27 member states after inspections of ready meals falsely labelled as beef had revealed in April that around one in 20 food products checked in Europe, and nearly three times as many in France, contained horse meat. Moreover, phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory drug banned in human food, had been found in 0.5% of the horse carcasses tested.

These percentages are "low, but I would have preferred them to be lower still. Which is why I am not ruling out a second series of tests," Borg told journalists.

"We need to find out whether after these first tests percentages have dropped or not," Borg added. "I am personally in favour of a second series of tests," Borg said, noting that the European Commission could "recommend tests, not order them".
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Publication:European Report
Date:Jun 11, 2013
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