Two audits by the European Commission’s health and safety body have looked at meat controls in Uruguay and France. The audit reports have been released recently.
The virtual audit by DG Sante in Uruguay in June 2021 covered beef and sheep meat for export to Europe.
A previous audit in 2016 highlighted deficiencies related to testing of beef for Salmonella in consignments sent to Sweden and Finland and animal welfare monitoring.
In 2021, there were 30 establishments approved to export bovine or ovine meat to the EU. Almost 18,500 tons of beef was sent to Europe in 2020 compared to 216 tons of sheep meat.
The recent audit report revealed adequate enforcement powers, traceability and checks to ensure exported products meet EU standards.
Auditors found some gaps in the national authority’s knowledge or understanding of certain EU requirements, resulting in approval of lactic acid to reduce surface contamination in sheep carcasses. However, before the audit had ended, officials had sent a letter to staff informing them the use of lactic acid to reduce contamination can only be used on beef carcasses.
The audit also identified shortcomings in the authority’s procedures to verify food business compliance with microbiological criteria own-checks. Instructions do not require official veterinarians to check that sampling is done in accordance with EU rules. At one slaughterhouse the official veterinarian had accepted alternative sampling and testing procedures that had not been validated as equivalent with the methods in EU legislation.
The governmental microbiological sampling program included 1,725 samples from beef carcasses in 2020 and only one was positive.
From June 2019 to June 2021, Uruguay received eight Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) reports from the EU that were because of detection of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in bovine meat. Auditors verified the cause was investigated with actions taken and verified to prevent a reoccurrence.
The other remote audit, in France, in November and December 2020 assessed the production of bovine meat, including traceability and gathered information on the poultry sector.
For ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection of bovine animals, rules do not ensure an official veterinarian (OV) is present in the slaughterhouse at all times. This means some tasks may be carried out by the official auxiliary under the responsibility, rather than with the supervision of the OV, which is against EU rules.
Information given to the audit team shows that official veterinarians at slaughterhouses can accept animals that have suffered an accident as being fit for transport. This is not in line with EU requirements as the journey may cause additional suffering.
Authorities have also not introduced any measures to ensure that private veterinarians act independently and are free from conflicts of interest when performing official duties.
Available data suggests 880 poultry slaughterhouses, responsible for 30 percent of national production, are not operating in line with EU requirements on the presence of official staff, mainly because of recruitment difficulties.
The audit found ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections in sites slaughtering more than 150,000 poultry per year do not always take place under the supervision of the OV. In sites slaughtering less than 150,000 poultry per year, the ante-mortem inspection is not carried out under the supervision of the OV.
Where the post-mortem inspection takes place under the responsibility of the OV, the presence of the official auxiliary is not ensured. This is against EU regulation that states slaughterhouse staff may only perform such tasks under instruction, and in the presence, of the OV or official auxiliary.
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