BEUC urges EU governments to increase controls on food safety
National governments inside the European bloc do not pay attention to food safety issues, says a new report from BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation. To verify that businesses comply with EU food safety and labeling laws, BEUC is calling on governments to increase resources for controls and on the EU Commission to ensure that member states’ reporting is complete, easy to access and comparable across countries.
“Our report shows that national governments are regrettably cutting corners when it comes to checking the vital resources that are our food. Even products prone to causing food poisonings – such as meat, eggs and dairy – are subjected to fewer and fewer controls,” asserts Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC.
“Several scandals have recently hit the headlines, including tainted baby milk and eggs, as well as meat unfit for human consumption. Consumers then legitimately wonder whether governments are effectively ensuring that businesses play by the rules – and whether they have the means to do so. Consumer mistrust in food products ultimately harms businesses and the economy as a whole,” she added. The main findings of the report show that:
- With some rare exceptions, human and financial resources for food controls are decreasing across the EU, as are the number of checks.
- Some control staff has flagged that they lack the necessary resources to carry out their duties.
- Controls of the foods most likely to cause poisonings, such as eggs, milk and meat, are decreasing.
- Member states’ patchy reporting makes comparisons difficult, if not impossible.
- Member states give low to no priority to labeling checks.
- Few countries choose to publish the results of inspections of individual operators and to inform consumers about hygiene standards in restaurants and food shops.
On the other hand, a new set of laws is expected to offer a real picture of the sector in a short-time, as Monique Goyens stated. "New EU rules to harmonize member states’ reporting on food controls will soon kick in. These rules will make it easier to compare countries’ performances and to help spot those who are not taking their control duties seriously enough,", she said. As of December 14, 2019, the EU will implement a new Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (OCR) that will replace the existing Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. The OCR is expected to impact food businesses and competent authorities. Aside from focusing on food safety and hygiene, the Regulation seeks to promote traceability and transparency in consumer information, as well as anti-food fraud measures.