The number of food businesses found to be violating the law during audits last year was around the same as the year before, according to Austria’s annual food safety report.

The report covers official inspections during 2018 by the Austrian provinces, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) and Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection (BMASGK).

A total of 43,581 inspections were carried out at 33,187. Violations were found at 2,824 companies or 8.5 percent of those inspected, which compares to violations at 3,058 or 8.3 percent of firms out of 36,839 inspections in 2017.

AGES and the inspection bodies of Carinthia and Vorarlberg examined 25,743 samples. The percentage that failed the tests was 16.9 percent, lower than 17.5 percent in 2017 and similar to past years.

Samples harmful to health

Risk, origin, type, composition and apparent quality of the sample determine the types of analyses carried out. Smell, flavor, visual appearance and labeling are assessed. Meat products, dairy products, and fish are tested for pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria. Tests for heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury, pesticide residues, or additives are also conducted.

A total of 120 samples were harmful to health, 723 were judged as unsuitable for human consumption or their intended purpose. Common reasons for objections were issues about labeling and information that might mislead consumers. In 397 samples, the composition did not meet required standards and 942 tests were unsuitable for reasons such as hygiene regulations.

A total of 36 of the 120 harmful samples faced complaints because of microbial contamination and a lack of hygiene. Twenty-one complaints because of contaminants were mostly related to iodine and heavy metals and in individual cases PAH and aflatoxins. Harmful foreign matter and contaminants were found in 20 samples. Fourteen were classed as harmful to health based on ingredients or composition.

“Plan samples” are taken on a routine basis throughout the year across the product range. The 21,941 plan samples analyzed are categorized in 5,234 from in-house production, 10,299 market samples and 6,408 from focus audits.

A total of 323 of 2,359 samples examined resulted in complaints. The most common causes were incorrect labeling and/or misleading information.

Forty-six samples were unsuitable for consumption because of microbial contamination and/or organoleptic issues and high levels of lead. Nine samples were classified as harmful; three-game meat products because of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), two salted meat items because of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), two sausages due to Listeria monocytogenes, another sausage because of STEC, and game meat item due to lead contamination.

Results for fish, milk, and poultry

A total of 97 of 827 fish samples examined resulted in complaints. The most common were labeling infringements and/or misleading information. Microbial contamination and/or organoleptic deficiencies caused by hygiene issues resulted in 15 complaints.

Seventeen samples were unsuitable for human consumption, eight due to microbial contamination and/or organoleptic issues, four because of mercury, two each due to nematodes and Listeria. One was harmful because of Salmonella contamination.

A total of 143 of 2,124 milk samples analyzed resulted in complaints. Microbial contamination due to hygiene issues was the primary reason in 65 samples. One sample of raw milk was unsuitable due to veterinarian drug residues.

Twenty-six samples were classed unsuitable to consume mostly because of microbial contamination. Three were harmful due to Staphylococcus toxin, Listeria monocytogenes, and a foreign body.

A total of 67 of 884 poultry samples led to complaints. Thirty-three were unsuitable for consumption because of microbial contamination, mainly caused by Salmonella. Microbial contamination because of hygiene issues resulted in complaints for six samples.

Findings for other product categories

A total of 199 of 1,259 bread and baked goods samples had complaints. Eighteen were unsuitable to consume, nine due to microbial contamination and one each because of an infestation by insects and foreign body contamination.

A total of 104 of 861 ice cream samples resulted in complaints. Forty-two because of hygiene issues, showing increased contamination – primarily with Enterobacteriaceae and also Bacillus cereus and E. coli in individual cases. One sample was harmful as a result of contamination with Bacillus cereus.

A total of 326 from 2,734 fruit and vegetable samples prompted complaints. Forty-five were unsuitable for human consumption, mainly traced back to microbial contamination and/or spoilage after poor hygiene or incorrect or overly long storage.

A total of 74 of 383 samples of spices, seasonings, and condiments resulted in complaints. Two were unsuitable for consumption because of Bacillus cereus.

Seven samples of fruit juices and non-alcoholic beverages and three alcoholic drinks were classed as unsuitable because of microbial contamination. Twenty-five samples of drinking and packaged water were unsuitable as a result of microbial contamination.

Three ready meal samples were unsuitable because of minor contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Nine samples were objected to because of microbial contamination caused by poor hygiene. One ready meal was harmful because of Listeria. Seven of the ready-to-eat foods for direct consumption were harmful because of contamination with Bacillus cereus.

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