New measures to supplement RASFF system
By Sophie Petitjean | Friday 20 July 2012
The number of notifications to the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) continues to increase. This reflects the system’s “increased effectiveness,” explains the Commission, which particularly welcomes the role played by this EU tool during the E.coli crisis and the Fukushima nuclear accident. Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli presented the RASFF annual report for 2011 on 20 July. He commented: “In 2011, we dealt with a number of important crises. The EU managed to tackle them and the lessons we all learnt will no doubt guide us to do even better in the future”. In a working paper on the lessons of the E.coli crisis, published in parallel, he proposes a set of measures to reinforce food safety in the EU.
9,157 NOTIFICATIONS IN 2011
The RASFF is an instrument that allows the rapid and effective exchange of information between member states and the Commission when a risk to human health is detected in the human or animal food chain. In 2011, 9,157 cases of non-compliance with EU food legislation were reported to the RASFF (compared with 8,582 the previous year), including 617 concerning serious risks. The problems encountered most frequently concerned the presence of aflatoxins in feed, dried fruit and nuts and migration of chemical substances from kitchen utensils made in China.
Of the 9,157 notifications registered, 5,345 were follow-ups and 3,812 were new cases concerning food (3,139), feed (361) or food contact materials (312). Another interesting observation is that notifications concerning pesticide residues increased from 2010 and almost quadrupled compared with 2007.
TRAINING AND COMMUNICATION
The RASFF was particularly useful during the 2011 E.coli crisis, states a working paper published in parallel with the annual report. It facilitated swift exchange of information between member states and, after intense research, led to identification of the source of the infection (fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt). However, it was not very useful in dealing with Germany’s erroneous allegations that the source of the infection was cucumbers imported from Spain. According to Copa-Cogeca, losses for farmers in the fruit and vegetable sector were estimated at €812 million during the first two weeks of the crisis.
Based on that finding, the working paper proposes a set of measures to strengthen the management of future health crises.
The Commission proposes to develop, by the end of 2012, specific rules for seed and the production of sprouts (concerning approved establishments, microbiological criteria, hygiene and traceability requirements, etc). It also suggests a review of traceability rules to help identify dangerous products and take them off the market more quickly and effectively.
The executive proposes to organise specialised training for leading trade partners in research on food-borne illness and management of epidemics, and hygiene at production.
The Commission also proposes to review the existing procedure on coordination of the Early Warning and Reaction System (EWRS) for prevention and control of transmissible illnesses and the RASFF and classic crisis management operating procedures. It makes no recommendations or suggestions to help the German Länder to improve their communication. The executive is also expected to launch an online notification platform (iRASFF).
The two documents are available at
www.europolitics.info > Search = 319158
The RASFF allows the rapid and effective exchange of information between member states and the Commission when a risk to human health is detected in the food chain