Authorities in Finland have uncovered large quantities of unrefrigerated meat being brought into the country without any documentation. 

Finnish Customs (Tulli) said the case involves evading taxes and food safety. The issue was found during Customs’ control in the West Harbor of Helsinki in spring 2022.

A preliminary investigation is in the final stages before the case is forwarded to the prosecution district of Southern Finland for consideration of charges.

Officials said the suspect tried to bring into Finland around 500-kilograms (1,100 pounds) of fresh beef and sheep meat in a car from Latvia via Estonia.

The Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) found the quantity of meat in question was so large that it could not be considered for private use. Instead, it was import for commercial purposes. The suspect’s operation was not registered, which is a requirement for the commercial import of foodstuffs, according to the Food Act.

Meat was transported unrefrigerated and without a Salmonella certificate. Deficiencies in the operation put end-users at risk of illness and increased the chance of Salmonella spreading, said authorities.

The suspect also admitted they had brought fresh and frozen meat to Finland on previous occasions.

“The case is serious in terms of consumer safety. The operation has caused harm, both to the health and safety of citizens and to law-abiding operators in the food sector. The suspect has benefited financially by neglecting the cold transport approval required by the obligation to register for the food sector,” said the investigator in charge, Juha Havumäki.

Generally, products move freely between EU member states. Depending on the countries concerned, there may be different import requirements to ensure product safety and to prevent the spread of animal and plant diseases. The Finnish Food Authority supervises the import of foodstuffs of animal origin to Finland.

Zoonosis report

Meanwhile, monitoring results of the main zoonoses from 2011 to 2021 have been compiled to understand the situation and development of trends in Finland.

Campylobacter is the most common and Salmonella is second for causing human infections. In recent years, cryptosporidiosis and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) cases have been reported more than before.

Among production animals, Salmonella cases in cattle and pigs increased, while in broilers they decreased. Salmonella is still very rare in domestic beef and pork. In slaughter broilers, prevalence of Campylobacter has decreased. STEC O157 became more common in slaughter bovines.

For foods, raw milk acted as a vehicle for several zoonoses causing infections including Campylobacter, Yersinia and E. coli. The importance of vegetables as a source of illness was also emphasized.

Between 2011 and 2021, 33 epidemics were caused by Campylobacter, in which 451 people fell ill and 11 of STEC with 399 patients.

From 2011 to 2020, an average of two Salmonella outbreaks with 35 cases were recorded. However, seven outbreaks were noted in 2021 including one that sickened more than 700 people.

From 2011 to 2021, Yersinia caused seven epidemics, in which 133 people fell ill. Ten listeriosis outbreaks affected 143 people.

The analysis found the situation in Finland was affected by changes related to the environment and climate, the number of people with weakened immunity, and imported dogs from endemic areas.

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