The European Commission has assessed the progress of food safety control systems in several countries aiming to become EU member states.
The reports cover various sectors and developments in Kosovo, Montenegro, Georgia, North Macedonia, and Bosnia Herzegovina in the past year.
An assessment found that Bosnia and Herzegovina made no progress in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, fisheries, and aquaculture, where preparation is mainly early.
The EU Commission said the country must align its legislation on food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy with European rules. There is a need to speed up preparations for national reference laboratories, improve hygiene, veterinary and phytosanitary checks, and maintain vaccination against brucellosis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has not yet met the criteria to export table eggs to the EU, and its updated national Salmonella control plan is not fully implemented. The food and feed control system requires further structural and administrative work at all levels of government, particularly on inspection services and laboratories, said the report.
For genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the level of alignment with the EU remains low. Inspection services are still insufficient, and no progress has been made in setting up the country’s reference lab for testing, controlling, and monitoring the presence of GMOs in food and feed.
Resource issues in Kosovo
Kosovo made some progress on food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy.
A food control and traceability management system and the laboratory information management system for the food safety and veterinary laboratories were implemented.
Despite the transfer of 75 inspectors from municipalities, the financial and human resources of Kosovo’s Food and Veterinary Agency remain insufficient.
The system for collection and disposal of animal by-products is not yet functional despite the existence of a new and equipped rendering plant. Work is also ongoing around novel food and GMOs.
Montenegro makes an effort to meet EU standards.
The EU Commission told Montenegro to focus on increasing the share of food plants compliant with EU standards and food safety controls.
The Administration for Food Safety, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Affairs (AFSVPA) strengthened its capacity by hiring one food inspector and two veterinary inspectors.
Montenegro carried on implementing its national program for improving raw milk quality and handling non-compliant milk. AFSVPA also improved the national regulatory and control system for poultry production and poultry products and harmonization with EU systems.
AFSVPA continued work to upgrade food establishments. The number of facilities licensed to export to the EU remains at 19. Implementing legislation was adopted to align with the EU in the food safety, veterinary, and phytosanitary areas.
Nut problem in Georgia
Georgia’s in-country lab testing capacity was described as not yet meeting EU needs in the sanitary and phytosanitary or food safety areas.
Budget allocations have not increased since 2020. They are insufficient to implement some elements of the new legislative framework effectively or to provide the required support to food businesses, said the EU Commission.
Meeting the requirements for hazelnuts remains difficult as the EU has a high level of import controls to detect contamination with aflatoxins. There are also problems with issuing electronic certificates.
According to the report, there are significant delays in the effective implementation of new legislation, weakening some of them and leading to a reduction in controls. National legislation on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin is not yet aligned with the EU.
Legislation and organization of the Georgian control system partially align with EU requirements. Due to the ineffectiveness of the surveillance system and lack of diagnostic resources, the authorities cannot yet deliver the full necessary level of assurances, said the report.
North Macedonia has good preparation in food safety and veterinary and phytosanitary policy, and some progress was made over the reporting period.
Amendments to rules on food safety and a new law on official controls have been prepared but are yet to be adopted. Legislation was amended in December 2022 to align with the EU on requirements for microbiological criteria for food. Regulation was adopted on residues of pharmacologically active substances, residues of pesticides and the maximum levels of contaminants in and on food of animal origin.
The Food and Veterinary Agency continued implementing a program to monitor food safety, but the data needs to be further analyzed, found the report.
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