EUROPE – The European Commission’s Alert and Cooperation Network 2022 Annual Report has revealed a significant increase in food safety notifications transmitted through vital EU networks. 

The report highlights that a large number of these notifications were related to non-compliance caused by pesticide residues.

The key networks involved are the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation Network (AAC), and the Agrifood Fraud Network (FFN).

The RASFF plays a crucial role in enabling authorities to swiftly exchange information on serious threats to human health concerning food, feed, and environmental risks.

In 2022, there were 4,361 RASFF notifications, with pesticide residues being the most significant hazard, accounting for 990 notifications. Follow-up notifications amounted to nearly 15,000, indicating continuous monitoring and response efforts.

AAC: Sharing information on cross-border violations

The AAC network facilitates the sharing of information on cross-border violations of EU agrifood chain legislation that may not pose immediate health risks. In 2022, AAC witnessed the highest number of notifications ever, totaling 2,554.

The notifications covered various aspects, including non-compliant labeling, product composition, and hygiene conditions.

FFN: Combating food fraud

The FFN network fosters cooperation on food fraud cases, aiming to address fraudulent activities throughout the food supply chain.

In 2022, there was a significant surge in notifications, reaching a total of 600. Notably, the illegal movement of cats and dogs represented a significant portion of these notifications, accounting for 46% of FFN reports.

Adulteration/product tampering and misdescription/mislabeling/misbranding were the most commonly reported types of fraud.

Pesticide Residues: A persistent issue

Pesticide residues continued to be a major concern in 2022, with 990 notifications in the RASFF system.

Although this represented a decrease from the previous year, fruits and vegetables remained the most affected product category, with 594 notifications.

Türkiye was prominently associated with pesticide residue issues, particularly concerning fruits and vegetables.

Pathogenic microorganisms and foodborne illness outbreaks

Pathogenic microorganisms, including SalmonellaListeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli, were the second most reported hazard category in food, with 857 notifications.

Poultry meat and poultry meat products, as well as nuts, nut products, and seeds, were the primary food categories affected.

Furthermore, 41 notifications were related to foodborne illness outbreaks, with Salmonella being the leading suspected cause.

Mycotoxins, allergens, and composition-related issues were also significant concerns, with 485, 210, and 208 notifications, respectively.

Notably, FCM notifications reached a total of 219, with substances such as primary aromatic amines and formaldehyde being frequently reported.

The European Commission analyzes all information shared through iRASFF to ensure compliance and appropriateness. The commission elevated 74 AAC notifications to RASFF due to potential health risks. Moreover, fraud elements were detected in 1,168 RASFF and 530 AAC notifications, leading to the initiation of fraud investigations.

Germany and the Netherlands were the most active EU countries in terms of RASFF notifications and follow-ups. However, Bulgaria was the top reporting country for pesticide residue issues, while Spain led in reporting FCM-related notifications.

EU strengthens food safety measures in response

The record number of food safety notifications and increased instances of fraud suspicions underline the importance of continuous monitoring, cooperation, and enforcement measures.

The European Commission remains committed to ensuring food safety, protecting public health, and combating fraudulent practices within the EU’s agrifood sector.

In response to the surge in food safety notifications, the EU has announced reinforced measures to address these concerns.

Stricter regulations, increased surveillance, and enhanced cooperation among member states will be implemented to safeguard consumers and prevent further incidents of noncompliance, pesticide residues, and food fraud.

These measures aim to bolster consumer confidence in the safety and integrity of the European food supply chain.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.