The food safety control system in Poland “leaves much to be desired,” according to the country’s Supreme Audit Office (NIK).
NIK analyzed nine of its inspections carried out in the past six years and five audits by the European Commission on food safety in Poland.
It found overlapping competences between agencies and a lack of cooperation between control bodies. Also, many conclusions and recommendations from previous inspections had not yet been implemented. In Poland, controls of food are carried out by several state institutions.
NIK discovered examples where the different agencies responsible for control did not inform each other about detecting unregistered production and trade in agri-food products.
Wide scale issues
The agency made four recommendations with the help of scientists to strengthen the system and raise the level of food safety, to increase consumer protection.
One of these was consolidation of the official food control structures into one authority to, in the long term, increase efficiency, effectiveness and transparency. This was planned in 2017 by establishing the State Inspection of Food Safety (PIBZ) but a draft act never made it to being law.
NIK also advised increased active participation of Polish representatives in the legislative work of the European Commission on changes to supervision of food safety.
Highlighted findings from past audits included increasing the budget for inspection bodies to improve the staffing situation, stricter penalties for placing unsafe food on the market and creating a safety assessment system for food additives.
Other issues were insufficient supervision over the slaughter of animals because of staff vacancies in the control agencies, gaps in lab capabilities and long sample turn-around times, plus a lack of oversight on online sales and dietary supplements.
In the current model, adulteration of a food may be of interest to as many as three different agencies depending on the specifics of the incident.
Between 2016 and 2020, an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis was linked to eggs from Poland. It affected 18 EU countries and was associated with 1,656 infections and two deaths, making it the largest reported European outbreak.
In another incident in 2020 and 2021, more than 500 Salmonella cases in the United Kingdom were caused by two strains of Salmonella Enteritidis traced to two suppliers of frozen raw, breaded chicken products in Poland. Almost 200 people were also ill in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden between May 2018 and December 2020 from one of these strains.
In 2019, there was a significant increase in notifications to 203 at the national Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) contact point at the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS). The number in 2018 was 131.
They mainly related to Salmonella in poultry meat and related products. The second most frequently reported risk in RASFF concerning products from Poland was the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in fish, meat products other than poultry, poultry meat and fruits and vegetables.
By Sept. 30, 2020, member states had submitted 273 reports to RASFF on food products from Poland, which was the most in the EU, according to NIK.
Poland has been listed as the country of origin for 18 RASFF alerts so far this year and was the subject of almost 400 posts in 2021.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)