EUROPE – The European Commission has evaluated the preparedness of the food safety system and progress made by Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Turkiye (formerly Turkey) with only Montenegro exhibiting a high level of preparedness.

Turkey kept imposing import restrictions on European agricultural goods. It is a significant supplier of food products to the EU and made little improvement in food safety, veterinary policy, or phytosanitary policy during the reporting period.

Since 2020, when new standards on chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl entered into force, the number of Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications due to pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables imported from Turkey into the EU has remained “unacceptably high,” according to the report.

The country once again stalled the implementation of hygiene rules for food of animal origin and raw milk.

With the establishment of the Salmonella control program, the report says that zoonoses have made some headway.

Concerns such as labeling, additives and purity criteria, flavorings, food supplements, and enzymes saw progress in the alignment of food safety regulations with EU standards.

Food and alcoholic beverages are among the things that are counterfeited in the nation, and deaths from fake alcohol have persisted.

For the purpose of putting food, feed, and animal byproducts on the market, Türkiye kept up its training, inspection, and monitoring programs.

While the ability of government controls has increased, more effort is still required to implement the new regulations on the registration and approval of food enterprises.

Aflatoxin in milk is a concern for Serbia

Although little progress has been made since the last assessment, the European Commission claims that Serbia is somewhat prepared in the areas of food safety, veterinary, and phytosanitary policy.

Serbia created a draft strategy and action plan for integrating with the EU. Nevertheless, it must be adopted following public input.

For food of animal or plant origin, monitoring and official control mechanisms were in place.

Although there has been progress in classifying food facilities for EU compliance, the procedure still has to be completed. Other positive steps included training inspectors.

However, efforts must be made to raise milk quality, and nationwide testing should be taken into consideration.

The permissible level of aflatoxins in milk is still five times greater than the EU standard, as has been highlighted for a number of years.

The risk management system is continually being refined. In accordance with EU regulations, Serbia shall routinely conduct pre-arrival and pre-departure analysis, including food safety checks.

According to the research, the customs laboratory is still underequipped, and the nation must enhance its risk-based handling of imported foods.

North Macedonia and Montenegro’s progress

The report showed that North Macedonia is well-prepared in terms of veterinary, phytosanitary, and food safety regulations as there was some improvement in these categories during the reporting period.

The Food and Veterinary Agency’s internal audit and training mechanisms, as well as the country’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, are all operational.

Through the resolution of customer concerns, the agency has taken action to protect citizens.

On food additives, food contact materials, and maximum levels for specific pollutants in foods, the legislation was in line with EU regulations.

The report states that although the FDA kept up a program to check food safety, data still needs to be further examined.

The Commission urged the country to increase data analysis capabilities in the Food Veterinary Agency and further integrate official control laws with new related EU requirements in the upcoming year.

In terms of food safety, veterinary care, and phytosanitary regulations, Montenegro is only fairly prepared, and the suggestions from the previous year have been well implemented.

More than 50% of food sites have now been upgraded and are compliant. There are 19 facilities with EU export authorization.

The nation kept up with its national program for handling non-compliant milk and enhancing the quality of raw milk.

Montenegro was instructed to raise the proportion of establishments that adhered to EU requirements and to strengthen its infrastructure and capacity for food safety checks in the next year.

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