There is room for improvement in the official food control systems of Iceland and Norway, according to the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA).
Iceland and Norway are in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) monitors how both countries implement European Economic Area (EEA) rules on food and feed safety, as well as animal health and welfare.
Both nations have established control systems to ensure they follow relevant EEA requirements, but some areas need strengthening, said ESA.
Recommendations being actioned
In May 2022, ESA sent a letter of formal notice to Iceland regarding incorrect implementation of food hygiene requirements, and a failure to undertake official controls concerning fish oil.
In a general review audit earlier this year, ESA assessed how Iceland followed up on recommendations it made in reports between January 2018 and September 2022. Iceland had taken steps to address the issues in six out of nine audits.
For three audits, limited progress was noted. One example was Iceland not addressing shortcomings identified during a 2018 audit on official controls of animal by-products not intended for human consumption.
The same process was undertaken for Norway. ESA found progress had been made to address the recommendations in four of nine audits.
However, Norway failed to meet the deadlines indicated for certain corrective actions listed in the other audits. This means a number of recommendations have not been satisfactorily addressed or only limited progress has been made, according to ESA.
ESA said actions to improve the controls on animal welfare during transport and related operations were still outstanding five years after the audit. Norwegian officials said implementation of a new process for the planning and verification of official controls to address the issues is planned for later this year.
Performance by sector
For fishery products, both nations have a risk-based system for official controls and, in general, it is consistently and adequately implemented and covers the entire production chain from catch to final product.
However, systems are weakened by an incomplete overview of landing sites and the register of vessels in Iceland and official controls not always being carried out in line with the frequencies established by the risk-based system in Norway.
Both countries apply a risk-based system to establish the minimum time or frequency for official controls related to poultry meat based on the size and activity of the food business. However, controls of animal by-products were weak as they do not ensure the prevention of risks to human and animal health arising from such products.
For food of non-animal origin, border control posts generally comply with the minimum requirements of the relevant EEA regulation and, if presented for official control, consignments mostly undergo documentary, identity and physical checks in line with the legislation.
However, the organization of official controls in Iceland does not ensure that relevant consignments are presented for checks. This undermines the assurance that only compliant products are placed on the market.
Follow-up of a 2019 audit on live bivalve mollusks in Iceland found further actions must be taken to address some of the recommendations to ensure that bivalve mollusks placed on the market are safe for human consumption.
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