Serious concerns have been raised about certain official controls in Iceland on poultry meat.
Recent reports from an audit, done from late October to early November 2022, resulted in a letter to the Icelandic Government asking for urgent action to strengthen the system of checks.
Iceland is in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) monitors how the country implements European Economic Area (EEA) rules on food and feed safety as well as animal health and welfare.
ESA found that Iceland had not implemented all relevant food safety legislation covering the production of poultry meat products and the related official controls by national authorities. Several shortcomings were identified, including poor animal health controls prior to slaughter and weak checks on slaughtered animals for signs of disease resulting in unsafe meat potentially being available to consumers.
Action taken on controls before and after slaughter
Risk-based official controls in poultry slaughter and processing establishments are planned on the basis of a classification system developed by national authorities. However, effectiveness is reduced by delayed follow-up and enforcement of non-compliances and the minimum official control time allocated to sites not always being used.
Official veterinarians (OVs) carry out all official controls in poultry slaughterhouses with no help from official auxiliaries or company staff. Auditors found slaughter regularly commences without ante-mortem inspection.
Since December 2022, all slaughterhouses are inspected before slaughter after arrival in the lairage, according to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST).
National authorities decided that only a representative sample of poultry from each flock undergoes post-mortem inspection. This is not meeting the requirements in the legislation and increases the likelihood of unsafe food entering the human food chain, according to the report.
Icelandic authorities said that since mid-January, 100 percent of slaughtered poultry have had a post-mortem inspection, and working conditions for OVs to do a proper inspection of animals have been improved.
Production plant problems
In one slaughterhouse, the audit team saw several birds on the line, after the post-mortem inspection point, which should have been condemned.
Official controls related to animal by-products do not ensure compliance with the regulations and checks on general hygiene issues do not detect all violations. Enforcement was not always dissuasive and did not consistently achieve timely corrective action for non-compliances, found the audit.
Recent reports on official controls, reviewed by the audit team, identified non-compliances such as animal by-products being stored in food containers and poor cleaning of infrastructure. At one site, flaking paint was seen directly above exposed meat. The business work plan had a completion date toward the end of 2023 to fix the problem.
In approved plants visited, auditors observed examples where the infrastructure did not meet legal requirements. For example, poor control of wastewater, condensation on structures directly above exposed ready-to-eat products,s and use of a power washer to clean dirty equipment in an operational production area.
National control programs are in place for Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry which both currently requires food business sampling of carcasses from each flock slaughtered.
Arrangements for the verification of official controls related to poultry meat are being updated. Once implemented, the hope is they will improve the quality and consistency of checks in the sector.
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