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EU Publishes Report on Serious Risks Detected in Relation to Food, Feed and Food Contact Materials EU-wide

The European Commission has recently published extended data and charts of the issues notified to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) during 2016, while the RASFF 2016 annual report is being finalised. The report explains how the rapid alert system works and provides detailed information about the overall figures of notifications in the year 2016.

Of special interest to Hong Kong traders exporting foodstuffs is the list of notifications by countries of origin. Mainland China is ranked in fifth place regarding the number of notifications for a particular hazard and food or feed product combination.

Launched in 1979, the RASFF network is an IT tool designed to exchange information between European national authorities on health risks related to food and feed as quickly as possible. Its real time communication enables all members to coordinate their actions with the objective of ensuring the highest possible level of consumer protection in the area of food and feed.

Article 50 of Regulation 178/2002 establishes the legal basis of the RASFF. Members of RASFF are all EU Member States, EEA countries (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Commission which manages the system.

If a network member identifies a serious risk linked to food or feed, it informs the other members of the product concerned and the measures taken to assess the risk (withholding, recalling, seizing or rejecting products) using a template. This enables the other members to simultaneously take necessary emergency measures in their respective territories (informing the public, withdrawing products from the market and carrying out inspections on the ground) if they, too, are affected. Failure to notify via RASFF constitutes grounds for an infringement procedure.

Further functions of the network include the possibility to report back on the outcome of investigations with regard to origin and distribution of the product and cause of the identified problem. Other members may send clarification requests as to the scope or nature of a notified hazard.

Since June 2014 a RASFF consumers’ portal provides practical and timely information on consumer recall notices and public warnings issued by food safety authorities and business operators.

The network differentiates between different kinds of notifications. An “alert notification” or “alert” is sent when a food, feed or food contact material presenting a serious risk is on the market and when rapid action is or might be required in another country than the notifying country. An “information notification” concerns a food, feed or food contact material for which a risk has been identified that does not require rapid action either because the risk is not considered serious or the product is not on the market at the time of notification. Of note to non-EU sellers, a “border rejection notification” means that a consignment of food, feed or food contact material was refused entry into the EU market due to a risk to human or animal health or to the environment.

Hong Kong traders exporting foodstuffs may like to be informed that in 2016, a total of 2993 notifications were transmitted through the RASFF. This number comprised 847 alerts, 976 information notifications and 1170 border rejection notifications.

Almost half of the total number of notifications concern controls at the outer EEA borders at points of entry or border inspection posts.

With a total of 685 notifications, pathogenic micro-organisms were by far the most notified by hazard category with mycotoxins in second place (551 notifications in total) and pesticide residues in third place (253 notifications in total).

The top five notified product categories are fruits and vegetables (497 notifications in total), nuts, nut products and seeds (443 notifications in total), fish and fish products (327 notifications in total), dietetic foods, food supplements and fortified foods (198 notifications in total) and herbs and spices (176 notifications in total).

The top five most notified countries of origin in combination with hazard and product category are pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables from Turkey (77), aflatoxins in nuts, nut products and seeds from Turkey (68), mercury in fish and fish products from Spain (62), aflatoxins in nuts, nut products and seeds from Iran (56) and aflatoxins in nuts, nut products and seeds from mainland China (49).

The full set of data can be viewed in the preliminary report.

Further information on the RASFF can be accessed on the European Commission’s website providing a Q&A.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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