The European Commission has said there is no indication that alerts made by Bulgaria about Salmonella in Polish poultry meat in 2020 were not justified.

Krzysztof Jurgiel, former Polish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and member of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the EU Parliament, asked whether the Commission was aware there could be a potential issue.

In a written parliamentary question, Jurgiel cited work by the anti-corruption committee of the Bulgarian Parliament into the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (БАБХ) from 2019 to 2021.

Jurgiel said it found regulation which prevented Polish poultry meat from entering the market until it was tested for Salmonella, as well as what he called “ambiguous procedures” for testing, which was often done by private laboratories despite access to an in-house testing facility.

No suspected wrongdoing
In 2020, Bulgaria reported 32 findings of Salmonella in Polish poultry meat to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). In 2021, only five were sent.

There were almost 300 reports for Salmonella in poultry meat products from Poland in 2020, according to the latest RASFF annual report.

Jurgiel said any influences on RASFF alerts could affect the credibility of EU food safety organizations and the single market.

Stella Kyriakides, on behalf of the EU Commission, said there was no suggestion that RASFF notifications from Bulgaria were not justified by facts because they were based on lab analyses and the Commission had no indication these were false.

The Commission asked for clarification from the Bulgarian authorities but has been told the regulation about testing Polish poultry for Salmonella is no longer in force so there was no need for an inspection of the national agency.

A level playing field?
Another question, by Tom Vandenkendelaere of the European People’s Party in the EU Parliament, raised points about the effectiveness of national food safety agencies and the level playing field for chicken or turkey meat producers.

Vandenkendelaere referenced a report from the Pano TV program that revealed Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) figures from 2020 and 2021 showed one in 20 samples of chicken or turkey meat in shops was positive for Salmonella in Belgium. The poultry meat came from countries including Poland.

The MEP asked the Commission about the audits carried out in previous years, lessons learned and if it was considering increasing such monitoring.

In a written response, Kyriakides said eight audits in 2022 will include slaughter hygiene of different species, including poultry.

The work program for this year also sets out nine audits in different member states covering controls on the safety of meat and Salmonella.

“At primary production level, the main remaining weakness of the control programs is the low Salmonella detection rate in samples taken by operators compared with official samples,” she said.

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