The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) is to devote more than half of its resources to food safety this year, according to the agency’s annual plan.

The 2019 document states the NVWA will spend 52 percent of available supervisory capacity on the subject of food safety. The plan sets out tasks and priorities for monitoring the health of animals and plants, animal welfare, the safety of food and consumer products and enforcement of legislation.

Budget of the NVWA this year will remain the same as last year at around €350 million ($400 million).

Picture: NVWA. Focus areas for NVWA in 2019

Areas that will receive increased attention include special foods and beverages such as food for medical use, baby food, novel food, nutritional supplements and those with nutrition and health claims as well as investigations of food fraud by the NVWA’s intelligence and investigation services (NVWA-IOD).

Other subjects the NVWA will put extra focus on are animal welfare with pilot projects of CCTV surveillance in slaughterhouses, strengthening digital supervision and increasing knowledge about trade on the internet.

Extra focus on the above areas means less inspections at catering companies. The NVWA said this choice was because supervision at such firms is already high compared to other sectors.

A Dutch consumer group previously hit out at the decision to only publish summaries of inspection reports for the catering industry without clear color coding. The House of Representatives rejected a motion last month to keep the color coding, which allows consumers to see how a catering establishment scores for hygiene requirements. Consumentenbond said simple presentation of the results allows consumers to make an informed choice and gives caterers added incentive to prioritize hygiene.

Lessons learned from fipronil
Meanwhile, a food safety action plan has been presented to the House of Representatives of the Dutch parliament.

The plan contains measures to improve food safety after the fipronil incident in 2017 and is in response to recommendations of the Sorgdrager Commission. This committee investigated lessons that should be learned from the incident, which led to millions of eggs being recalled because they were potentially contaminated with the insecticide.

Self-regulation by businesses in the food supply chain will be strengthened, the NVWA will respond faster to signals of violations and fraud, and enhanced cooperation has been stressed when dealing with a food safety scandal. A joint crisis exercise for the egg sector and government is planned for some time in 2019.

As part of the self-regulation, the IKB egg quality scheme will be improved and there will be more controls on products used by poultry farmers, such as feed and disinfectants as well as random examination of eggs for high-risk substances. A hotline has been created where companies and third parties can report suspicious signals.

A chief food safety officer (CFSO) will be appointed at the NVWA in 2019 to be the contact point for the ministries, business community and enforcement authorities in other member states.

Finally, the rates charged by NVWA to companies for inspections, re-inspections, system monitoring, certification, sampling and analysis also increased at the start of this year. Rates of the NVWA are set by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). The NVWA is about 70 percent paid for by the LNV and VWS. The remaining 30 percent are costs for inspections charged through fees to the business community.

Rates are adjusted annually in line with rising wages, prices and other developments. It amounts to 2.9 percent this year for NVWA activities and 2.3 percent for the Quality inspection of the Animal Sector (KDS) work. Costs of inspection work by official veterinarians and assistants of the NVWA and KDS in slaughterhouses and cutting plants will decrease in 2019.

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