The number of recalls went up in 2021 but public warnings dropped in Switzerland, according to recently published figures.

The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) published 18 public warnings and 61 recalls for food in 2021 compared to 28 warnings and 49 recalls the year before. Recalls are published by companies and public warnings are made by Swiss authorities.

Most alerts this past year concerned pathogens such as Listeria nine times, Salmonella on six occasions, and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) twice.

Fifteen notifications were due to exceeding the maximum limit of THC. This is mainly due to a campaign by local enforcement authorities on products containing CBD.

Various foodstuffs containing cannabis or cannabis extracts were analyzed and checked for compliance with maximum THC values and the presence of unauthorized claims for CBD. This focus also made dietary foods, food supplements, and fortified foods one of the top recalled categories in 2021.

Ethylene oxide
Ten alerts each were due to allergens and mycotoxins and a dozen were because of pesticide residues.

More than 300 Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) alerts concerned Switzerland as products were distributed to the country. Swiss officials made almost 70 notifications and Switzerland was the country of origin on 12 occasions.

Overall, 131 products were affected by pesticide residues and 107 mentioned ethylene oxide.

The use of ethylene oxide in foodstuffs is not permitted in Switzerland or the EU. The problem has been ongoing since late 2020 when it was discovered by Belgium in sesame seeds from India.

The food industry and enforcement authorities are testing other products for ethylene oxide. This explains why there has been a marked increase in the detection of pesticides, said officials.

In 2021, various product categories were affected by ethylene oxide notifications including food additives, flavorings and dietary, fortified foods and food supplements, nut products and grains, herbs and spices, cereal-based products, and ice cream and desserts.

Checks at the border
Meanwhile, another report has summarized findings from border controls related to food safety.

In 2021, 343 samples were taken at the border and analyzed by cantonal, or regional, laboratories.

One campaign looked at mycotoxins in dried spices such as paprika, pepper, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric imported from India, Indonesia, France, Germany, and Sri Lanka. A total of 31 samples were analyzed and four were non-compliant, two due to Aflatoxin B1 and two because of Ochratoxin A. Products were removed from the market and officials followed up with importers.

Another focused on cadmium in chocolate from a variety of countries. Only one of the 42 samples was non-compliant and it was withdrawn from sale.

A separate analysis focused on the presence of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables from Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and India. Of 42 samples taken, nine were non-compliant. Black and green teas from 11 countries were also studied. Of 33 samples, 22 were non-compliant but none posed a risk to health.

In 2021, 104 consignments of food of animal origin transported by air were subject to physical checks combined with lab tests. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was detected in a batch of lamb from New Zealand and beef from Argentina.

Eight tests of the scallop dish Coquilles Saint-Jacques from Canada and the United States for Hepatitis A and E, Vibrio species, and norovirus; a dozen tuna samples from Asia for histamine and seven samples of horse meat for Phenylbutazone were all negative.

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