European Commission - Press release
Food Safety : Report documents growing importance of the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed
Brussels, 25 October 2011 – The European Union's system for quick exchange of information on risks linked to food and feed - an invaluable tool especially at times of crisis - has further grown in importance during 2010, the system's annual report reveals.
The 2010 annual report of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), notes that the number of notifications in RASFF rose to 8582 last year. This is a record number and constitutes an increase of 8% compared to 2009, when the number of notifications was slightly under 8000. This growth in notifications, taking place for the third consecutive year, is largely down to rejections of consignments at EU borders in the light of the strengthening of border controls as regards food of non-animal origin, through Regulation (EC) No 669/2009. There were also 576 alert notifications reporting on serious risks found in products on the market, a small increase compared to 2009.
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli said: "RASFF's 2010 annual report serves as yet another proof of the efficiency of the EU's alert system for food and feed. As the recent E. coli crisis has shown, the necessary information must be disseminated rapidly enabling authorities to withdraw dangerous products from the market once they had been identified". To conclude : "Of course, there is always room for further improvement. Lessons will thus be drawn from the E. coli crisis, to help us further improve the use of our alert and response system."
Almost one out of two notifications in 2010 is about a feed, food or food contact material rejected at the EU border due to a risk posed to food safety. When such a product is identified, the RASFF informs the third country in question, in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem, in most cases through its online RASFF Window platform. When a serious and persistent problem is detected, the Commission sends a letter to the national authorities of the third country concerned, asking them to implement corrective measures such as delisting establishments, blocking exports or intensifying controls.
Facts & figures
The RASFF report breaks down the overall number of notifications in 2010 into alert (576), information (1168) and border rejection (1552) notifications. Alert notifications are sent when the food or feed presenting a serious risk is already on the market and immediate action is required.
Two-thirds of the alert notifications in 2010 related to products originating in the EU, and most of these problems were detected by controls carried out on the market. Among the risks most reported through these alerts were the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms, heavy metals, allergens and mycotoxins.
Information notifications are sent when a risk has been identified but immediate action by other Member States is not necessary either because the product is not yet or not anymore on the market or because the risk is of a non-serious nature. About half of the information notifications (52%) were on products originating in third countries. Among the risks most reported for information notifications were the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms, pesticide residues, heavy metals and non-compliances regarding food additives.
Border rejection notifications concern products that were refused entry into the Community and were given another destination or were destroyed. More than three out of ten (34%) border rejections concerned products refused entry because of high levels of mycotoxins. The second most frequent reason for rejection was the presence of pesticide residues above the limits set in legislation.
The RASFF is a tool enabling quick and effective exchange of information between Member States and the Commission when risks to human health are detected in the food and feed chain. All Members of the RASFF (EU-27, Commission, EFSA, ESA, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland) have a round-the-clock service to ensure that urgent notifications are sent, received and responded to in the shortest time possible. Thanks to RASFF, many food safety risks had been averted before they could do any harm to consumers.
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