Results from inspections, sampling and targeted operations are detailed in the Czech Republic food agency’s latest annual report.

In 2022, the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (SZPI) carried out almost 50,000 inspections of businesses, public catering establishments, customs warehouses and online shops. The agency detected 3,351 non-compliant lots of food and other products.

The highest number of deficiencies was found in foodstuffs imported from non-EU countries, while the lowest proportion of non-compliant samples was in foods made by domestic producers. 

The top percentage of non-compliant batches was in dehydrated products, liquid flavorings, dressings, salt and mustard; and other foodstuffs, including frozen products; chocolate and confectionery; ice creams and frozen creams; and non-alcoholic beverages.

Microbial results
Compliance with microbiological criteria was checked for 2,625 samples. Onsite inspections discovered 218 batches unfit for human consumption, while 166 non-compliant samples were detected in laboratory tests. Samples most often found to be unsafe were dairy and meat products. The most frequent violation was growth of mold and spoilage because of microbial activity.

In lab tests, Listeria monocytogenes was found in one batch of baguettes from a production plant and Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) in two batches of steak tartare. Anisakis was detected in one batch of smoked herring.

SZPI found a violation of legislation during almost every fourth inspection of public catering sites. A total of 48 facilities were closed because of unacceptable hygiene conditions. The agency said this situation cannot be regarded as satisfactory and warrants increased attention.

In 2022, the authority had to deal with the shortage of raw materials imported to Czech Republic from Ukraine. After the invasion by Russia, trade routes were interrupted and some raw materials, especially oils, had to be replaced by other types suitable for the relevant food production methods.

A dozen samples were taken for determination of ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide and its metabolite 2- chloroethanol were found in food supplements, in additives, and ground black pepper.

Nine unauthorized public catering facilities producing sprouts were uncovered during inspections. Also, one unauthorized domestic firm and one unregistered Slovak sprout producer were found. Seven bans on the use of premises of inspected establishments for the production of germinated seeds (sprouts) were handed out. In a dish labeled “Lamb shashlik”, goat protein was found as well as lamb. In a meal labeled “Beef kebab”, pork and turkey protein was also detected.

Online food sales
Officers carried out 877 inspections on online food sales. SZPI is increasingly focusing on inspections of foodstuffs offered or promoted on social networks or via online auctions. The most frequently checked commodities were food supplements. Almost half of inspections in this sector ended with unsatisfactory results.

Martin Klanica, SZPI director general, raised a number of issues in the report including pesticides, microbial testing results and online food sales.

One problem was non-compliant shipments of food with a declared origin in Southeast Asia. These included leafy greens and chili peppers with pesticide residues exceeding the limits or with a cocktail of many pesticides. Unsatisfactory results were obtained from inspections on microbiological requirements for ice for drinks as well as for soft serve and scooped ice creams in catering.

Another issue is risky or fraudulent foreign websites, often without proper contact information, which offer preparations claiming to solve health problems but sometimes they have an impact on human health. These websites target Czech consumers, but are beyond the reach of Czech authorities, said Klanica.

More than 3,200 administrative proceedings for non-compliance with food legislation by operators were completed, for which SZPI imposed fines of almost CZK 110 million ($5 million) – which is about CZK 20 million ($900,000) more than the previous year.

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