A quarter of food products imported into the Czech Republic from a third country were non-compliant last year, according to a report.

Inspection results revealed the highest number of violations for foodstuffs imported from third countries at 25.1 percent and those made by producers in the European Union at 16.9 percent. Domestic production had the least violations at 13 percent.

Findings come from the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority’s (CAFIA) 2018 annual report.

It identified foodstuffs with over-the-limit pesticide residues, pesticides prohibited in Europe for several years and food supplements with harmful substances.

Martin Klanica, director-general of the agency, said trends seen in recent years continued.

“There are concrete facts indicting that in products imported from abroad, there is a considerably higher share of non-compliant batches than among foodstuffs originating in the Czech Republic. We had to take this fact into account in our long-term strategy and inspection panels for future periods. Unsafe or adulterated foodstuffs do not belong on the market, must not be tolerated and are a direct violation of consumers’ interests.”

Reasons for non-compliance

CAFIA made 43,401 visits to food business operators, public caterers, customs warehouses and Internet shops. The agency found 3,514 non-compliant lots of foodstuffs.

The most problematic items are chocolate and confectionery (53.9 percent), honey (46.3 percent), starch and starch products (45.5 percent), dehydrated products, liquid flavoring substances, dressings, salt and mustard (44.3 percent), other items including frozen foods (43.8 percent) and additives and aromas (37.5 percent).

Issues were found with a third of coffee, coffee substitutes, and teas, non-alcoholic drinks (31.6 percent) egg and egg products (30.3 percent), ice cream and frozen creams (29.5 percent), nuts (28.2 percent), natural sweeteners (25 percent), wine (23.9 percent), pasta (23.9 percent), processed vegetables and mushrooms (22.3 percent), edible fats and oils (21.7 percent) and food supplements (14 percent).

In 2018, checks for microbiological compliance were done on 5,741 batches of foodstuffs, meals, ice, and bottled water, of which 1,792 were checked in-situ and 3,949 through samples in laboratories. In-situ controls uncovered 146 batches unfit for human consumption and 116 non-compliant samples were found at the labs.

In the lab samples, Listeria monocytogenes was found in a hummus spread and potato salad. Salmonella spp. was detected in meat products, fresh chicken, confectionery, ready-made salad, and a vegetable salad meal. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli was identified in mixed tartare steak.

Most batches found to be unsafe were meat products, dairy, and fresh vegetables. The top cause was the growth of visible mold and spoilage due to microbial activity.

Checks for inorganic substances on 4,449 food batches revealed 161 were non-compliant. Above-threshold amounts of pesticide residue were found in 35 of 1,194 batches of packaged water, teas, fruit, poppy seeds and vegetables. Five of 453 analyzed batches were non-compliant for ochratoxin A and Aflatoxin B1.

The maximum quantity of cadmium was exceeded in a celery sample and the level permitted of calcium and metallic magnesium was too high in a food supplement.

Regulatory action

In 2018, CAFIA received 3,929 complaints, which was 698 less than in 2017. A total of 3,687 batches of food products were inspected on the basis of complaints and 847 were non-compliant.

Last year, CAFIA imposed 12,397 bans for an amount of Czech Koruna 53,625,509 ($2.33 million). Foodstuffs on which a ban was set most frequently included dairy and meat products. The greatest monetary volume was imposed on wine and fresh fruits. Last year saw the conclusion of 2,216 administrative proceedings with food businesses, in which fines were imposed for a total of CZK 100,594,000 ($4.37 million).

During 2018, 67 public catering facilities were closed due to unacceptable hygiene conditions.

CAFIA considers findings of adulterated foodstuffs such as meat or fish with low meat content, ketchup with low tomato content, or wine with water content or adulterated origin, to be severe deficiencies.

In five samples of kebabs, where it was declared on the menu or during the order that they were made of beef or veal, presence of undeclared turkey or chicken was detected. Only two of seven samples were compliant. Adulterated production of wine was identified in four cases.

Out of 81 sampled honey batches, 40 were non-compliant; 16 batches stated the Czech Republic as the origin but five of these batches contained honey from non-existent companies.

Last year, 441 notifications were sent through the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation System (AACS) which deals with food fraud and 30 cases were for the Czech Republic.

A total of 2,811 notifications were distributed through RASFF made up of 191 original notifications concerning the Czech Republic and 2,620 additional information notices. The Czech Republic sent 47 original notifications.

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