Ukraine is moderately prepared to meet EU requirements in the area of food safety, according to the European Commission.

Details come from reports published by the EU Commission assessing the capacity of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia to meet the obligations of EU membership. Moldova and Georgia applied to be member states in March 2022.

Ukraine was judged to have some level of preparation in consumer and health protection. The country applied for EU membership in February 2022, after it was invaded by Russia. A scale used by the EU Commission goes from an early stage, some level of preparation, moderately prepared, good level of preparation to well-advanced.

Public health and safe food systems
A 2022 Ukrainian law on public health is partly aligned with the EU. It introduces the One Health concept, which should lead to better communication between the health agency, veterinarian service, and food safety authorities, according to the report.

Epidemiological surveillance systems are integrated into the EU early warning and response system. It has established a central body for disease control and public health and implemented the relevant provisions on communicable diseases and related special health issues to be covered by epidemiological surveillance as well as case definitions.

Administrative capacities of the institutions involved in food safety need to be strengthened and coordination between them needs to be improved, found the assessment.

The State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection (SSUFSCP) is in charge of implementing the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine’s (MAPF) policy and is responsible for risk-based inspection controls through a network of sub-national entities at regional and sub-regional levels.

Ukraine has authorized laboratories to perform official testing for sanitary and phytosanitary controls and most are accredited with ISO 17025. The capacity of labs and a number of accredited methods for diagnostics is satisfactory but could be increased, said the report.

The country’s official food and feed control system is yet to be fully aligned with the EU. Controls on goods during import follow a risk-based approach.

Operators of mid-size and small food businesses need training on specific EU safety and quality requirements. State control on the safety of food is becoming more systematic and risk-based, however, the risk analysis, assessment, and management system have to be strengthened.

Ukraine is active in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) network but is not a member. Participation in the EU’s Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) should be pursued, according to the report.

Moldova’s progress
Moldova was found to have achieved some level of preparation in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy. Responsible agencies are the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry and the National Food Safety Agency.

Monitoring, surveillance, and enforcement in areas such as animal health and welfare, biosecurity, food safety, and product traceability require improvement.

National rules for export to Europe are generally in line with EU requirements, although because of the fact that the surveillance system is not effective and a lack of diagnostic resources, there are issues with the level of assurances for all animal products.

Moldova has a national contact point to communicate with the RASFF team and a procedure to deal with notifications forwarded by this system. The country has set maximum levels of residues in plants and food products and specifies actions to be taken in the event of non-compliance.

Monitoring plans are developed to verify compliance with feed and food laws and animal health and animal welfare rules. While official checks follow a risk-based approach, the report found their frequency is not in line with the level of identified risk.

Georgian verdict
Georgia has some level of preparation in food safety. Like Moldova, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement in areas including food safety and product traceability need improving, found the report.

In Georgia, national legislation for exports to Europe is mainly in line with EU requirements, although there is an ineffectiveness of the surveillance system and a lack of diagnostic resources.

Budgets have not increased from 2020 to 2022 and are insufficient to allow for the effective implementation of some elements of the new legislative framework or to provide the necessary support to food businesses. Georgia also has difficulties meeting requirements for hazelnuts, which is why the EU maintains a high level of import controls to detect contaminations with aflatoxins.

Georgia has a national point of contact with the EU’s RASFF team but in-country lab testing capacity needs to be strengthened. Georgian officials participate in Better Training for Safer Food events.

There is a risk of a widening gap between legal standards and effective implementation. A comprehensive food safety strategy, review of policy, and institutional reforms are needed. There are delays in the effective implementation of new legislation, weakening some of them and leading to reduced controls, according to the assessment.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)