DG Sante raises considerations on Belgian microbial controls

Belgium’s system to forestall microbiological dangers earlier than and through harvest of sure meals has been criticized by the EU’s well being and security physique. Officers in Belgium disagree.

A DG Sante audit discovered Belgium’s program shouldn’t be designed to determine companies that don’t have measures to cease the chance of contamination at these phases of manufacturing of meals of non-animal origin (FNAO), which embrace fruit and veggies.

The audit came about in late October 2020 however the coronavirus pandemic meant findings are based mostly on a distant evaluation of documentation and video interviews with officers. It was the second audit of official controls on FNAO in Belgium. A 2015 report made one advice however within the newest evaluation DG Sante discovered the adopted measures weren’t adequate.

Earlier than and through harvest points
The audit workforce discovered the official management system is unable to determine and rectify shortcomings previous to and through harvesting of FNAO and checks for main producers deal with after harvest.

The Federal Company for the Security of the Meals Chain (FASFC) in Belgium didn’t agree with DG Sante’s opinion that there aren’t any controls earlier than and through harvest. Nevertheless, the company added it’s going to see if some gadgets could be improved.

“The FASFC, at current, nonetheless judges that no in depth official management is required on the manufacturing phases prior and through harvest, because of the excessive stage of licensed self-checking programs and downstream official and personal controls. FASFC believes the assertion that there aren’t any controls prior and through harvest is unfaithful,” in keeping with the company.

Auditors famous FNAO inspectors weren’t conscious of EU steering to test how corporations do environmental sampling to detect Listeria monocytogenes, so this can’t be verified successfully by official controls.

The Belgium officers stated employees might be made conscious of the paperwork however they’re below revision so a timeline for an e-learning software with emphasis on Listeria will rely on when the brand new variations are printed.

The audit discovered producer registration doesn’t embrace the kind of crop grown, which prevents identification of main producers which have excessive threat crops like comfortable berries and leafy greens.

Totally different threat ranges for various merchandise are usually not taken under consideration. Leafy inexperienced greens, comfortable berries, frozen berries and frozen greens are in the identical class as potatoes and different greens supposed to be eaten after cooking. For the chance based mostly plan in the identical product group, components corresponding to farm measurement and manufacturing quantity are additionally not included.

Info gaps
DG Sante stated the risk-based official management system for FNAO is weakened as a result of the details about main producers is inadequate to keep in mind greater dangers of microbial contamination of sure produce.

Additionally, inspections on meals hygiene don’t embrace particular measures to forestall microbiological dangers through the pre-harvest and harvest phases of manufacturing.

The system of own-controls licensed by a 3rd get together certification physique may mitigate the chance of the shortage of official controls earlier than and through harvest. For main producers, such programs are voluntary and solely about 50 % of 21,500 have them.

Controls just like the presence and use of handwashing amenities and bogs and safety of fields from animal entry and pests are usually not foreseen by the system and never carried out by inspectors even for crops deemed excessive threat. FASFC stated it was “inconceivable” to forestall the entry of animals to open fields and “not life like” to guard them from chicken droppings.

Official controls are carried out by certified employees with assist from IT instruments and checklists plus detected non-compliances are adopted up. A microbiological monitoring plan is in place and the laboratory functionality and capability was one other constructive.

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