The European Commission has stepped up legal action against Romania for failing to follow rules on the hygiene of foodstuffs.

Romanian authorities have established national laws that are not in line with food hygiene requirements across the European Union, which aim to ensure food safety to protect consumers, said the Commission.

These rules don’t comply with certain definitions in EU law, such as retail trade, primary product, and primary production of foodstuffs. Action concerns game meat, wild-caught fish, and quail eggs. It also covers the retail trade in non-primary products of animal origin.

The EU Commission first sent a letter of formal notice to Romania in July 2020 requesting more information. Since this was not complied with, a reasoned opinion has been issued. Romania has two months to rectify the situation. The next step could be a referral to the EU Court of Justice.

A reasoned opinion is a formal request to comply with EU law that explains why the Commission believes the country is breaching the law.

Romania is also accused of breaching other obligations as it failed to notify the national rules to the EU Commission before adopting them.

Results of controls
Meanwhile, the Romanian food agency and national police have seized a range of products in a series of recent controls.

Inspectors from the National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA) and officers from the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police (IGPR) were part of the teams that carried out the intensified campaign around Easter.

Between March 28 and April 10, more than 3,100 controls were undertaken across the country in various outlets. This resulted in 335 fines, totaling more than 2 million lei ($445,000). Ten activity suspension notices and eight prohibition notices were issued.

Almost 22,000 kilograms (48,500 pounds) of products of animal origin were seized including fish, poultry, pork, beef, eggs, and dairy products.

Deficiencies included improper storage and labeling of food; expired products; sale of food without respecting hygiene conditions or in unregistered premises; improper handling of food items; lack of documents certifying the conformity or traceability of products; and transport of animals without the necessary documents.

As well as the above actions, non-conformities found during other controls in the city of Bucharest resulted in 64 sanctions being applied, amounting to 240,000 lei ($53,300).

Veterinary health inspectors ordered the confiscation of more than 350 kilograms (772 pounds) of meat products. Also, 113 vehicles were stopped and checked, and fines of 1,500 lei ($330) were issued. A total of 80 kilograms (176 pounds) of fish and fishery products were seized.

Officials also identified the illegal transport of lambs in Tulcea County. There were 91 lambs in the van, of which only 74 were accompanied by veterinary health documents. The carrier was fined.

Further investigations identified the owner of the lambs in Sibiu County and the responsible veterinarian. The owner was fined 1,500 lei ($330) and the veterinarian 12,000 lei ($2,700) for not following relevant regulations.

In another case, a vehicle was checked in Arad County transporting fish from Italy. Inspectors found a lack of batch information for products and inconsistency between the quantity discovered and the documents presented, which made it impossible to ensure traceability. All the consignment was blocked and the transporter was fined 12,000 lei ($2,700).

From August 2022 to February 2023, the EU Commission posted five Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) alerts for poor temperature control, poor traceability records, and absence of labeling on various foods, including products of animal origin from Romania.

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