According to a new report published by consumer group BEUC, the number of food controls and the resources allocated to them are “dwindling” across Europe.
All EU member states are required by law to report on their inspection activities every year, but the BEUC has reported that national governments are “cutting corners” on food safety.
The report, ‘Keeping food in check’, analysed data on official food controls from 12 countries, and found that with a few exceptions, both human and financial resources for food controls are decreasing across the EU, as are the number of checks. Some control staff have stated that they lack the necessary resources to carry out their duties.
In the EU, the primary legal responsibility for complying with food safety and labelling laws lies with food business operators. However, member states are responsible for enforcing EU legislation via official controls, and in turn, the European Commission is responsible for ensuring that member states are carrying these controls out. According to the BEUC’s report, member states’ patchy reporting makes comparisons difficult.
Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, commented: “Even products prone to causing food poisoning – such as meat, eggs and dairy – are subjected to fewer and fewer controls. 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.”
In order to verify that businesses comply with EU food safety and labelling laws, BEUC calls 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.
By Bryony Andrews
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