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2012 Report on Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed: Questions & Answers

European Commission - MEMO/13/524   10/06/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 10 June 2013

2012 Report on Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed: Questions & Answers

What is RASFF?

Launched in 1979, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) is primarily a tool to exchange information between national competent authorities on consignments of food and feed in cases where a risk to human health has been identified and measures have been taken. Examples of such measures are: withholding; recalling; seizure or rejection of the products concerned. This quick exchange of information allows all EU Member States to immediately check whether they are also affected by the problem. Whenever a product is already on the market and should not be consumed, the Member States' authorities are then able to take all urgent measures, including giving direct information to the public, if necessary.

Why do we need RASFF?

The swift exchange of information among the RASFF members on food and feed related risks ensures coherent and simultaneous actions by all RASFF members.

The publication of notifications through the RASFF portal database makes consumers aware that we are active in this domain. Consumers can get access to an online database allowing them to see information relating to RASFF notifications the latest 24 hours after their transmission in the RASFF network. Thanks to the work carried out by the RASFF, and depending on different technical and scientific criteria such as nature, seriousness and extent of the risk, public health authorities can take the appropriate steps to inform the general public of the nature of the risk, type of food or feed involved and the measures taken to prevent, reduce or eliminate that risk.

How does it work in practice?

It is important that the problem is notified. Member States use a template to provide all relevant and useful information such as identification of the product, hazards found, measures taken and traceability information of the product. Once the information received through the system, other Member States will check if they are concerned. If the product is on their market they will be able to trace it using the information they find in the notification. They will report back to the RASFF on what they have found and what measures they have taken. In case of products produced in EU, the Member State of origin will also report to RASFF the outcome of its investigations into the origin and distribution of the product and the cause of the problem identified. This allows other Member States to take rapid action if required.

What are the criteria for notification to the RASFF?

The criteria for notification to the RASFF are provided in Article 50 of Regulation (EC) N° 178/20021.

Whenever a member of the network has any information relating to the existence of a serious direct or indirect risk to human health deriving from food or feed, this information is immediately notified to the Commission under the RASFF. The Commission immediately transmits this information to the members of the network.

Article 50(3) of the Regulation gives further criteria for when a RASFF notification is required:

“Without prejudice to other Community legislation, the Member States shall immediately notify the Commission under the rapid alert system of:

  • any measure they adopt which is aimed at restricting the placing on the market or forcing the withdrawal from the market or the recall of food or feed in order to protect human health and requiring rapid action;

  • any recommendation or agreement with professional operators which is aimed, on a voluntary or obligatory basis, at preventing, limiting or imposing specific conditions on the placing on the market or the eventual use of food or feed on account of a serious risk to human health requiring rapid action;

  • any rejection related to a direct or indirect risk to human health, of a batch, container or cargo of food or feed by a competent authority at a border post within the European Union.”

Who are the members of the RASFF system?

The RASFF network comprises of: EU Member States; EEA countries (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland); EFTA Secretariat coordinating the input from the EEA countries; European Food Safety Authority (EFSA); and the Commission as the manager of the system. Since 1 January 2009, Switzerland became a partial member of the system after they concluded an agreement with the EU eliminating border controls between the EU and Switzerland for products of animal origin. From 1 July 2013, Croatia will become a new member of the RASFF.

What are the main findings of the RASFF annual report 2012?

In 2012 the number of RASFF notifications reached a total of 8797, representing a 3.9% decrease compared to 2011. Of those, 3516 were original notifications (40 %) and 5281 were follow-up notifications (60%). These figures represent a 7.8% decrease in original notifications and a 1.2% decrease in follow-up notifications. A total of 526 alert notifications reporting on serious risks found in products on the market, which marked decrease of 14% compared to 2011.

Of the 3516 original notifications transmitted in RASFF in 2012, 332 concerned feed (9.4%) and regarding food contact materials, 299 notifications were counted (8.5%). These figures are in line with what was reported in 2011. 2885 original notifications were related to food.

What is covered by the top notifications?

Does the decrease in overall notifications signify that our food is safer?

There are many factors that influence notifications to RASFF. Nonetheless, no change in these factors can be identified that may have caused the decrease although no figures are available to RASFF on the level of food safety checks in the member countries in 2012 compared to the previous years. It is important to note that there was no decrease for so-called follow-up notifications on problems reported for products placed on the market in the EU. This means that RASFF is used ever more intensively to follow up on these problems. As a consequence, these problems will be solved more rapidly and measures will be put in place to prevent them from happening again.

What was the role of RASFF in the recent horse meat scandal?

RASFF is primarily a platform to exchange information on food safety issues and not on fraud. However, the Commission decided to use the RASFF system to notify this case because the system is able to collect and report on complex traceability which was a key issue in this incident.

It is important to highlight that thanks to the RASFF, the Irish food safety authority, which originally discovered that some processed foods labelled as 100% beef contained horsemeat, was able to swiftly alert its European partners. As a result of a monitoring programme, launched by the Commission, over 70 RASFF notifications were sent which led to over 300 follow-up notifications to trace the products and withdraw them from the market.

The horsemeat scandal has raised a legitimate need to exchange information on cases of food fraud which is an emerging phenomenon. To address this issue the Commission has prepared a 5 point Action Plan to tackle fraudulent practices. The plan aims to close the gaps identified in the wake of the horsemeat scandal including setting up a procedure for the rapid exchange of information and alerts in cases which may constitute food fraud.

IP/13/520

Origin

Product category

Hazard

Product category

Hazard

Product category

Hazard

Product category

Hazard

Product category

Hazard

Austria

feed materials

Salmonella Agona

feed materials

Salmonella Mbandaka

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

fruits and vegetables

omethoate

fruits and vegetables

monocrotophos

Belgium

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised irradiation

feed materials

too high count of Enterobacteriaceae

feed materials

Salmonella spp.

feed materials

aflatoxins

Bulgaria

fruits and vegetables

formetanate

fruits and vegetables

procymidone

fruits and vegetables

tetradifon

fruits and vegetables

oxamyl

fruits and vegetables

clofentezine

Cyprus

food contact materials

migration of primary aromatic amines

cephalopods and products thereof

arsenic

feed materials

aflatoxins

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

food contact materials

migration of lead

Czech Republic

cereals and bakery products

insufficient labelling

food contact materials

material abrading

food contact materials

migration of primary aromatic amines

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

nuts, nut products and seeds

unsuitable organoleptic characteristics

Denmark

fruits and vegetables

aflatoxins

meat and meat products (other than poultry)

prohibited substance chloramphenicol

feed materials

high count of Enterobacteriaceae

herbs and spices

Salmonella spp.

poultry meat and poultry meat products

Salmonella enteritidis

Estonia

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

feed materials

Salmonella

fish and fish products

parasitic infestation with Anisakis

food contact materials

migration of lead

feed materials

Salmonella spp.

Finland

fruits and vegetables

too high content of sulphite

non-alcoholic beverages

too high content of E 210 - benzoic acid

dietetic foods, food supp, fortified foods

unauthorised substance 1,3 dimethylamylamine

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised substance tadalafil

France

fruits and vegetables

aflatoxins

herbs and spices

profenofos

herbs and spices

bifenthrin

herbs and spices

triazophos

herbs and spices

diethion

Germany

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

fruits and vegetables

aflatoxins

poultry meat and poultry meat products

unauthorised substance clopidol

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

meat and meat products (other than poultry)

shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli

Greece

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

nuts, nut products and seeds

Salmonella spp.

feed materials

Salmonella spp.

fruits and vegetables

too high content of sulphite

nuts, nut products and seeds

Salmonella Mbandaka

Hungary

soups, broths, sauces and condiments

attempt to illegally import

nuts, nut products and seeds

infested with larvae of insects

feed materials

Salmonella Senftenberg

cereals and bakery products

undeclared peanut

cocoa and cocoa preparations, coffee and tea

undeclared hazelnut

Ireland

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised substance 1,3 dimethylamylamine

food contact materials

migration of primary aromatic amines

poultry meat and poultry meat products

unauthorised substance clopidol

food contact materials

migration of DEHP - di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate

prepared dishes and snacks

high content of aluminium

Italy

food contact materials

migration of chromium

fish and fish products

mercury

food contact materials

migration of manganese

food contact materials

migration of nickel

fish and fish products

parasitic infestation with Anisakis

Latvia

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised irradiation

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

benzethonium chloride

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

non-alcoholic beverages

unauthorised use of colour E 127 - erythrosine

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

irradiation in an unauthorised facility

Lithuania

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

irradiation in an unauthorised facility

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised irradiation

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

high content of lead

fats and oils

benzo(a)pyrene

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

Luxembourg

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

food contact materials

migration of melamine

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised substance sibutramine

non-alcoholic beverages

E 210 - benzoic acid unauthorised

other food product / mixed

ochratoxin A

Malta

fish and fish products

mercury

fruits and vegetables

aflatoxins

food contact materials

improper health certificate(s)

fish & fish products

histamine

crustaceans and products thereof

too high content of sulphite

The Netherlands

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

feed materials

aflatoxins

fruits and vegetables

methomyl

herbs and spices

Salmonella spp.

food contact materials

migration of formaldehyde

Poland

nuts, nut products and seeds

infested with mites

food contact materials

migration of lead

nuts, nut products and seeds

living and dead mites

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised substance 1,3 dimethylamylamine

food contact materials

migration of cadmium

Portugal

food contact materials

migration of epoxidised soybean oil (ESBO)

other food product / mixed

high content of aluminium

cereals and bakery products

unauthorised genetically modified

poultry meat and poultry meat products

unauthorised substance clopidol

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised novel food

Romania

fruits and vegetables

imazalil

fish and fish products

parasitic infestation with Anisakis

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

absence of health certificate(s)

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

attempt to illegally import

Slovakia

fruits and vegetables

unauthorised food additive formic acid

honey and royal jelly

sulfamethoxazole unauthorised

nuts, nut products and seeds

unsuitable organoleptic characteristics

herbs and spices

undeclared celery

cereals and bakery products

E 210 - benzoic acid unauthorised

Slovenia

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised substance sibutramine

fruits and vegetables

dimethoate

cereals and bakery products

undeclared milk ingredient

confectionery

undeclared milk ingredient

food contact materials

migration of chromium

Spain

fish and fish products

poor temp control - rupture of the cold chain -

nuts, nut products and seeds

aflatoxins

crustaceans and products thereof

poor temperature control - rupture of the cold chain -

cephalopods and products thereof

poor temperature control - rupture of the cold chain -

dietetic foods, food supp, fortified foods

unauthorised substance 1,3 dimethylamylamine

Sweden

meat and meat products (other than poultry)

Salmonella

meat and meat products (other than poultry)

Salmonella typhimurium

meat and meat products (other than poultry)

Salmonella spp.

dietetic foods, food supp., fortified foods

unauthorised substance 1,3 dimethylamylamine

feed materials

Salmonella Mbandaka

UK

feed materials

aflatoxins

fruits and vegetables

Salmonella spp.

nuts, nut products & seeds

aflatoxins

fruits and vegetables

monocrotophos

fruits and vegetables

acephate

RASFF 2012 – Breakdown by Member State of top 5 most notified product category/hazard combination

1 :

OJ L 60, 1.3.2002, p. 70–80


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