Latvian officials have called on the European Commission to monitor Ukrainian egg producers more closely to protect against Salmonella.

Earlier this month, Latvian Minister for Agriculture Kaspars Gerhards sent a letter to Vytenis Andriukaitis, the commissioner for health and food safety calling on the EC to take action and put in place measures to prevent consumers from being exposed to a foodborne salmonellosis risks. Latvia is the biggest EU importer of eggs from Ukraine.

Gerhards said inspections by Latvian authorities had found serious food safety violations.

“There is a single market in the European Union, so all egg producers must have a level playing field, including in countries outside the European Union that have a trade agreement. Regardless of the member state in which the production takes place, the product must meet all the quality and, in particular, safety requirements. It should not be allowed that Ukrainian egg producers endanger the health of Latvian and other people with their products,” he said.

The Latvian Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) reported it would continue strict surveillance and control measures at the border to ensure public health protection for Latvian and European citizens.

Increasing exports
Part of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement was the possibility to import and export eggs and egg products without tariffs but with quotas. Since it entered into force, imports of eggs from Ukraine have increased from 163 tons in 2014 to 3,665 tons in 2015, then 8,043 tons in 2016, and 13,792 tons in 2018.

The Commission can take steps to restrict or suspend placing on the market of a product to address public health risks.

DG SANTE has received the letter which identifies concerns on four Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications because of Salmonella in egg products imported from Ukrainian company Ovostar Ltd. since April 2019.

The firm is part of the Ovostar Union Group of companies which supplies products to more than 50 countries in Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Previous EU audits
Anca Paduraru, spokesperson for Health, Food Safety and Energy Union projects, told Food Safety News that a response to the letter is being prepared but gave no indication what would happen next.

The four RASFF alerts are because of Salmonella Enteritidis in liquid egg white from April 24, Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Enteritidis in liquid egg white dated May 3, Salmonella Infantis in dried egg products from July 18 and Salmonella Enteritidis in dried egg products dated July 22.

A DG SANTE audit in January this year in Ukraine covered poultry meat, eggs and their products and was a follow-up to a visit the year before. It is not expected that there will be another audit in Ukraine in the near future.

The 2019 audit found that while Ukrainian authorities had made improvements on performance and effectiveness of official controls since the previous visit, procedures for de-listing establishments for EU export needed to be revised as they did not ensure de-listing happens rapidly.

An audit in May 2013 evaluated the Salmonella National Control Programme so Ukraine could be included on the list of third countries authorized to export table eggs to the EU. Although a number of deficiencies were identified, the actions taken in response to recommendations during a follow-up were considered satisfactory and the audit was formally closed in April 2016.

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