More than a dozen countries have taken advantage of temporary rules to tackle disruption in official control systems in Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of May 6, 15 nations had informed the European Commission that they are applying the measures in Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/466. Countries wishing to use them have to tell the Commission and other member states.

The full list of countries is Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden.

The aim is to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus through movement of control staff and to help movement of animals, plants, food and feed into and within Europe.

The EU legislation on human, animal and plant health and animal welfare gives nations more flexibility to do official controls in the supply chain. Member states had told the Commission that restrictions on movement of people was making it hard to conduct official controls which require the physical presence of staff and other activities in line with legislation.

It covers clinical examination of animals, certain checks on products of animal origin, plant products and food and feed of non-animal origin, and testing of samples in official laboratories designated by member states. Veterinary and phytosanitary controls on animals, plants, food and feed may be carried out by people authorized by national authorities.

The rules give temporary flexibility for control authorities to use remote communication and electronically submitted documents for checks. It is initially limited to June 1 and will be reviewed based on experience.

Consumer group Foodwatch previously wrote to Stella Kyriakides, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, expressing concern that the crisis must not be used to lower frequency and quality of control requirements and food checks must not be delegated to private companies.

EU ups checks on citrus and spice mixes
Meanwhile, the European Commission has also updated the list of foods subject to enforced entry controls from certain countries.

Consignments of oranges, mandarins, clementines, wilkings and similar citrus hybrids from Turkey, are subject to an increased level of official controls because of potential pesticide contamination, as are spice mixes from Pakistan due to possible aflatoxin contamination.

The frequency of identity and physical checks on beans from Kenya and dried grapes and pomegranates from Turkey are also being increased because of non-compliance.

Sesame seeds from Sudan and Uganda were already subject to increased official controls for Salmonella since July and January 2017, respectively. Now all consignments of sesame seeds from these countries need to be accompanied by an official certificate stating all results of sampling and analysis show absence of Salmonella in 25 grams.

All imports of peppers, other than sweet, from India and Pakistan also must be accompanied by an official certificate showing the products have been sampled and analyzed for pesticide residues and results show the relevant maximum residue levels have not been exceeded.

For raspberries from Serbia, dried apricots and apricots, otherwise prepared or preserved and lemons from Turkey, information indicates a satisfactory degree of compliance with safety requirements so the increased level of official controls is no longer justified.

Previous legislation prohibits import of foodstuffs containing betel leaves originating in or sent from Bangladesh. It was adopted following a high number of reports because of the presence of a range of Salmonella strains, including Typhimurium. As Bangladesh has not submitted a satisfactory action plan, these rules remain in place.

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