The number of notifications in European networks monitoring food fraud increased in 2022, according to a report.
The Alert and Cooperation Network (ACN) includes the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed Network (RASFF), the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation Network (AAC), and the Agri-Food Fraud Network (FFN).
The AAC and the FFN registered the highest number of notifications ever seen while RASFF notices were down in 2021, largely because of an improvement in the ethylene oxide situation.
The annual ACN report, published by the European Commission, shows there was a significant increase in agri-food fraud activity during the year but RASFF remained the most active network. A total of 4,361 notifications were transmitted through RASFF linked to health risks in food or feed.
Also, 2,554 Administrative Assistance and Cooperation notices or non-compliances with European Union legislation, which do not present an immediate health risk, were reported with another 600 suspected cases of fraud reported.
RASFF alerts down
Among all RASFF notifications in 2022, 3,904 concerned food, while others were because of feed and food contact materials. Almost 1,000 were linked to pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables or herbs and spices, which was down when compared to 2021. The most common pesticides were chlorpyrifos, ethylene oxide and 2-chloroethane, and chlorpyrifos-methyl.
Pathogenic microorganisms were the second most reported hazard category in food. Salmonella was the main pathogen with more than 600 notifications, followed by Listeria monocytogenes with 132 and 41 for E. coli, all primarily detected in products of animal origin. A total of 190 Salmonella notifications concerned poultry meat products from Poland, while for Listeria the top category was fish and fish products.
In 2022, 41 notifications on foodborne outbreaks were sent in RASFF. A dozen identified Salmonella as the probable cause, seven were linked to Listeria monocytogenes, five to histamine poisoning, and four to norovirus. Seven notifications were related to multi-country outbreaks.
Mycotoxins were the third main hazard category with 485 notifications. These were mainly the detection of aflatoxins, and the product category was nuts, nut products, and seeds. Origin was the United States on 53 occasions. Allergens were mentioned in 210 notifications, with cereals and bakery products as the main product category and milk as the most common allergen notified.
Border rejections were the only notification type that increased from 2021. The top reported notification basis for goods detected on the market was official controls, followed by a company’s own check and a consumer complaint. On 45 occasions, food poisoning was mentioned.
In line with previous years, Germany was the most active notifying country in RASFF with 586 posts. The Netherlands was second with 559, followed by Belgium with 428 and Poland with 320.
The top EU countries in terms of origin were Poland with 312 notifications, the Netherlands with 257 and France with 226. Turkey was listed as the country of origin in 557 notifications and India in 299, mainly due to pesticide residues.
Almost 300 RASFF notifications were caused by pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables from Turkey and 190 by Salmonella in poultry meat products from Poland. Issues with food contact materials from China were third. Fourth was Salmonella in nuts, nut products, and seeds from Nigeria while aflatoxins in this product category from the United States was fifth. Sixth was Salmonella in herbs and spices from Brazil.
AAC and FFN highlights
Germany created more than a third of all notifications in the AAC system, followed by Belgium and Austria at about 10 percent each.
Two-thirds of notices involved goods coming from the EU and a third from outside the EU. More than 85 percent of notifications are related to food. The highest-reported product category was fruits and vegetables. Second, were dietetic foods, food supplements, and fortified foods and third were meat products other than poultry.
The main violation was faulty labeling or claims, non-compliant composition was second, followed by a lack or improper documentation or controls and faulty processing or storage conditions.
Notifications in FFN went up to 600 from 407 in 2021. The leading countries reporting fraud suspicions were Germany, Belgium, and France.
Almost three-quarters were for goods coming from the EU and a quarter from outside the EU. Of cases involving products of non-EU origin, 21 percent concerned China, mostly suspicions of adulteration in honey, followed by misdescription of fish products. A total of 12 percent concerned India, involving mainly alleged adulteration of shrimps by undeclared addition of water.
For products from the EU, cases in Spain covered suspected adulteration of squid products and mislabeling of olive oil as extra virgin olive oil. Incidents involving the Netherlands focused on misdescription and smuggling of animal products.
Follow-up of suspicious cross-border fraudulent activity led to the launch of actions such as the coordinated control plan to deter adulteration practices in honey.
Problems with live animals and horses continue to be recorded. Cases concern consignments of animals that have not undergone the necessary controls or are not fit for human consumption but are illegally brought into the food chain. Around half of the requests presented forgery or absence of animal passports and identification elements such as microchips, health certificates, or registration in national databases or TRACES and the other half were for smuggling and illegal trade.
Notifications on fish products mainly featured cases of substitution of fish with lower-value species. Other recurrent cases were the use of unapproved and undeclared treatments or processes such as color-stabilizing treatments of tuna to suggest a higher quality.
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