Czech Republic will lift checks on beef from Poland that the European Commission called “disproportionate” from next week.

One month ago, the country put in place extraordinary veterinary measures that all Polish beef must be tested in an accredited lab at a cost to the importer before it is placed on the market following detection of Salmonella.

The EC examined these measures and concluded they appeared disproportionate to the incident.

“While Czech government has an obligation to control and to enforce controls when needed, the controls have to be proportionate and done by Czech veterinary service. It should not put a burden on operators,” said European Commission spokeswoman Anca Paduraru.

This week, Czech agriculture minister Miroslav Toman met with his Polish counterpart Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski and the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis and agreed to lift the checks from March 25.

Andriukaitis met with Toman on March 6 and spoke with Ardanowski the day after. The meeting this week took place in the margins of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH).

Toman said Polish meat will remain under scrutiny after the emergency measures are removed and controls will be intense.

Since February, the State Veterinary Administration in the Czech Republic has taken more than 200 beef samples from Poland, the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority has checked about two thousand restaurants and shops and there have also been intensified checks on roads, especially near the border.

In the last month, Czech Republic has made four notifications on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) concerning meat from Poland. One was for Salmonella Enteritidis in chilled beef and another for Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Infantis and Salmonella Newport in frozen chicken legs.

The third detailed Salmonella Infantis in one out of five 25-gram samples in chilled chicken breast fillets and the final one listed Salmonella Enteritidis in chilled chicken.

The Czech Republic previously rejected a request from the European Commission to remove the measures but agreed to take action after Poland made promises that it will detail in a letter to the EC by March 25.

These veterinary measures in the beef sector are thought to include completing high-risk slaughterhouse inspection as well as more stringent regulation to increase sanctions and target those committing fraud and to raise the level of veterinary supervision.

Czech veterinary inspectors will go to Poland to clarify the technical details of future cooperation and to see whether measures are working.

Paduraru said checks conducted on the national market are part of official controls under the responsibility of member states’ authorities.

“The EU legislation foresees the possibility for a member state authority to take measures on food that is susceptible to present a health risk, on a case-by-case basis and after assessment by that competent authority. Measures taken by the member state should stay proportionate with a view to address the specific risk identified,” she said.

The ministry of agriculture and rural development of the Slovak Republic also put in place measures around beef from Poland but the EC said it was not informed officially of ‘extraordinary measures’ taken by the country.

Slovakia is using lab tests to check such products for the presence of bacteria and residues of veterinary drugs before release to the market.

The minister of agriculture, Gabriela Matečná, met with representatives of businesses in Slovakia at the start of March about refraining from selling Polish meat and several chains announced they would not sell it. The EC confirmed it had been in contact with Slovak authorities on this but did not elaborate about action taken.

A team of European Commission auditors went to Poland in early February following revelations an abattoir slaughtered sick cows and sent the meat to multiple EU countries. Preliminary findings pointed to shortcomings in implementation of the official control system in the implicated slaughterhouse. The EC requested Poland launch an action plan to remedy issues identified during the audit.

During a meeting of the Biological Safety of the Food Chain section of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed last month two member states said meat from the Polish slaughterhouse was consumed before authorities were informed of a possible risk.

An audit from March 25 to April 5, 2019 is a general assessment of the Polish control system for meat.

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