Major problems remain in the Polish control system for beef and poultry meat, according to the European Commission’s health and safety agency.
A remote DG Sante audit, in October 2021 in Poland, followed-up two audits in 2019 on beef and poultry meat and made nine recommendations.
In 2019, a Polish television broadcast showed practices in a bovine slaughterhouse that pointed to violations of EU animal welfare law and, possibly, of food safety legislation.
DG Sante said several actions to address findings made after the beef and poultry audits have been implemented. However, other shortcomings have not been solved by Polish authorities.
Beef audit findings
A draft act, announced in the action plan by Polish officials, had been suspended because of the high financial cost.
The number of authorized veterinarians has increased since the beef audit from around 3,300 in 2019 to 5,800 in 2021 but official staff in the main authority has decreased.
At the time of the audit, the salaries of authorized vets were based on the number of animals slaughtered, which creates a conflict of interest.
“The reduction of staff in the competent authorities leads to a further reduction of the supervision over the official controls at different levels and, in particular, the supervision over a now substantially increased number of authorized veterinarians. This further compromises assurances about the correct and effective implementation of official controls,” said auditors.
During the latest audit, fees charged to food businesses for inspection of adult bovines in slaughterhouses were unchanged from the 2019 beef audit, so are below the minimum EU rates. This also impacts the resources available to the competent authority, said auditors.
Polish officials said a law aiming to ensure that people who do official controls, including veterinarians, are free from conflicts of interest and updating fees charged to companies was signed in July 2022. Plans to change salaries being linked to the number of animals slaughtered were also underway.
A lack of enforcement around bovine animal welfare was also found.
“The lack of sanctions on those operators breaching the animal welfare rules not only provides an incentive for these operators to continue ignoring these rules but is also likely to impact on the continued willingness of control staff to pursue such cases if they are systematically dismissed by the judiciary,” said the report.
Salmonella still a problem in poultry sector
The audit found measures in the poultry action plan, plus added intensified official sampling, have been implemented but Salmonella contamination still remains an issue.
Shortcomings were noted in the design of, and official controls over, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plans and the reliability of certain private laboratories that test for Salmonella.
Establishments were approved, even though the HACCP-based procedures were not adequate and related issues went undetected by official controls. This included microbiological hazards and measures to control or eliminate them not being correctly identified and the absence of an established HACCP team.
The high average line speed of 11,500 birds per hour was also cited as a problem, as it was not possible to carry out the post-mortem inspection reliably.
“The important shortcomings found in the design and operation of HACCP plans indicate that both food business as well as competent authority staff are incapable of correctly assessing the adequacy of these plans. Together with the ineffective identification of the source of contamination, the measures taken both by food businesses and competent authorities, are not effective in preventing recurrences and/or are not taken in a timely manner,” said the audit report.
Polish officials said training workshops would take place from September to November and an online training platform would be made available.
DG Sante said Salmonella contamination remains a serious problem, with consistent detection over several years in some establishments. This indicates the risk is not being managed properly.
Data given to the audit team showed that around 15 percent of the own-checks results tested negative and did not match the results of parallel official sampling which were positive in 2018.
An intensified sampling plan in six plants with a high number of RASFF notifications requires all lots produced to be officially tested.
One inspection report at a plant involved in several RASFF notices since 2019 found poor hygiene of slaughter processes, and differences between the results of own checks and official tests, which raised concerns about the reliability of the former and the procedure for product recalls did not meet legal requirements. In September 2021, authorities ordered the closure of part of the plant’s activities for two months and told the company to reduce slaughter speed to 10,000 birds per hour.
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