The European Commission has released a number of reports which mention food safety in countries wanting to become members of the European Union.

The documents cover many areas and look at progress in the past year made by the Western Balkans and Turkey.

There were pesticide residue problems in Turkey, continued high aflatoxin in milk limits in Serbia, but good progress on food safety was made in North Macedonia.

Olivér Várhelyi, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, said the Western Balkans was a priority for the EU.

“It is imperative that we ensure the credibility and bring new life to the accession process. If our partners deliver on reforms, the EU also needs to deliver on progress in its negotiations,” he said.

Pesticide fruit and vegetable findings in Turkey
Turkey is a major exporter of food products to the EU, and made limited progress in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policies with recommendations in 2020 only partially taken up.

Turkey needs to make further progress to meet EU standards, particularly on pesticide residues, found the report.

The capacity for official controls was improved but no progress was made on developing the national plan for upgrading agri-food establishments. The EU Commission said significant work was still needed to apply the new rules on registering and approving food establishments.

The number of Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) reports for pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables imported from Turkey into the EU remained unacceptably high, especially in 2020 when new standards on chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl became applicable, according to the assessment.

Alignment of food safety rules with the EU advanced on issues such as labeling, additives and purity criteria, flavorings, food supplements and enzymes but is yet to be ensured for novel food and genetically modified organisms.

In the coming year, Turkey should upgrade food establishments to meet EU standards, and submit a national program, make progress in meeting EU pesticide residue maximum limits with a monitoring plan, and make further progress in addressing zoonoses. There was some progress though with implementation of the country’s Salmonella control program.

Risk-based imports issue in Serbia
Serbia advanced food safety by recruiting staff at national reference laboratories and drafted an action plan on fisheries.

While rules on monitoring programs were adopted for food of animal and plant origin, Serbia must improve its risk-based approach for imports, and consider electronic exchange of data and documentation where possible, according to the report. The country has not yet audited inspection staff and integrated multiannual control plans are yet to be prepared.

The allowed level of aflatoxins in milk remains five times higher than that permitted by the EU. There was no progress on genetically modified organisms.

In the next year, Serbia should adopt a strategy and action plan for alignment, implementation and enforcement of EU food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy; step up efforts on the sustainable management of pesticides and improve its risk-based approach to official controls for imports.

Progress in North Macedonia
In the reporting period, good progress was made in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy in North Macedonia.

The Food and Veterinary Agency (FVA) developed a food safety strategy for 2021 to 2025. The national RASFF, as well as the agency’s internal audit and training systems, are operational. The authority is also trying to protect consumers by providing information about preventing food fraud associated with e-commerce.

Legislation was aligned with the EU on food information, flavorings, enzymes, food additives, food for particular nutritional uses, food contact materials, and the maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. FVA continued a program for monitoring food safety, but the data needs further analysis, said the report.

In the coming year, there is a need to strengthen the capacities for data collection, verification and analysis of the Food and Veterinary Agency; improve the functioning and reliability of the Animal Identification and Registration System; and take action to achieve a sustainable use of pesticides.

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