Ukraine has made progress in boosting food safety despite the war, but there are still areas that need improvement, according to a European Commission assessment.

Several reports on countries trying to become EU member states cover various sectors and developments in the past year in Serbia, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine, and Albania.

A previous article detailed the situation in Kosovo, Montenegro, Georgia, North Macedonia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

The State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection is operational with 140 employees. Market surveillance inspections and controls remain suspended, with only exceptional unscheduled actions occurring. This limits the effectiveness of surveillance and may affect the quality and safety of products, found the assessment.

A law, adopted in October 2022 and implemented beginning in October 2023, introduced a One Health approach, which includes information exchange on infectious diseases common to animals and humans. The government prepared a strategy and action plan for cooperation between the food safety, animal, and human health authorities in March 2023.

A risk analysis, assessment, and management system is in place, with the participation of food facilities. As of March 2023, 427 Ukrainian companies could export products to the EU.

Ukraine updated its food safety monitoring plan, and the import control of goods follows a risk-based approach. Ukraine participates in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) but is not a network member. Preparations have started to use the EU’s trade control and export control system (TRACES) within one year.

However, food safety databases must be further integrated, and administrative capacities need strengthening at all levels. Official controls of imports and the handling of animal by-products not for human consumption are not aligned with the EU. Implementation of legislation needs to be monitored, and disease surveillance needs to be stepped up.

Turkish problems
Turkey continued to restrict imports of agricultural products from the EU. It is a major exporter of food products to Europe but has made limited progress on food safety. RASFF notifications for pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables sent to the EU remained high, a trend seen since 2020.

The number of articles from Turkey detained at EU borders by customs authorities has increased. Counterfeiting concerns a range of products including food and alcohol.

No progress was made on developing the national plan for upgrading food establishments. Significant effort is needed to apply new rules on registering and approving food plants. Work is required on a strategy for raw milk and rules for producers. Turkey has yet to adopt specifications for raw milk and rules on using milk that does not meet somatic cell criteria.

The country’s provisions on funding inspections are not in line with the EU system. Turkey has also not aligned legislation on novel food or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with Europe.

Albanian assessment
Some progress occurred at the Albanian National Food Authority. Still, work is needed to reduce the administrative burden for planning and reporting on risk-based official controls and to ensure national data are transparent.

Issues with the national residue monitoring plan include veterinary medical products, pesticide residues, heavy metals and mycotoxins in live animals and products of animal origin.

Albania continued alignment on identifying maximum levels for specific contaminants in food. Raw milk testing was part of the 2023 official control plan, but action is needed on a roadmap to improve milk quality. No progress was made on GMOs, with legislation yet to be adopted.

Moldovan findings
During the reporting period, progress was made in Moldova to strengthen authorities’ institutional and diagnostic capacity, especially reference laboratories. Administrative capacity has improved through the re-organization of the National Food Safety Agency. However, more resources and training are needed for inspectors, particularly at the local level.

In March 2023, Moldova was allowed to export processed poultry meat and Class A eggs to Europe. This reflects the effectiveness of official controls, said the report.

Monitoring and enforcement of food quality on the domestic market need to be strengthened. Headway has been made to harmonize national legislation with EU rules on labeling substances or ingredients that cause allergies or intolerances and information on gluten. A law on GMOs, aligned with the EU, was adopted in June 2022 and will enter into force in 2024.

Serbian situation
Serbia had an advanced draft of a strategy and action plan for alignment with EU food safety rules, but it has not yet been adopted. The risk-based approach for imported foods needs to be more transparent and comprehensive. Periodic delays in issuing import certificates or abrupt shortening of their validity for meat or dairy products constitute non-tariff barriers, said the EU.

There is a long-standing shortage of official veterinarians, with over 150 vacant posts in the Veterinary Directorate. Additional steps are also needed to meet the requirements to export fresh poultry meat and eggs to the EU.

Serbia made no progress in improving milk quality. Work is required to widen the scope of lab analysis and increase awareness-raising efforts for improved hygiene during milk production. The permitted level of aflatoxins in milk is five times higher than that allowed by the EU while measures to reduce the presence of aflatoxins in animal feed have not been implemented.

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