Food controls in Europe are declining, says BEUC report
The ‘Keeping food in check’ report, published by The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), states that the number of food controls and the resources allocated to them are dwindling across Europe.
In order to verify that businesses comply with EU food safety and labelling laws, The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) has called on governments to increase resources for controls and on the EU Commission to ensure that member states’ reporting is complete, easy to access and comparable across countries.
All member states are required by law to report on their inspection activities every year. BEUC analysed data on official food controls from 12 countries.1 Here are the main findings from the ‘Keeping food in check’ report:
- With some rare exceptions, human and financial resources for food controls are decreasing across the EU, as are the number of checks
- Some control staff have flagged that they lack the necessary resources to carry out their duties
- Controls of the foods most likely to cause poisoning – such as eggs, milk and meat – are decreasing
- Member states’ ‘patchy’ reporting makes comparisons difficult, if not impossible
- Member states give low to no priority to labelling checks
- Few countries choose to publish the results of inspections of individual operators and to inform consumers about hygiene standards in restaurants and food shops.
“Our report shows that national governments are regrettably cutting corners when it comes to checking the vital resources that are our food. Even products prone to causing food poisoning – such as meat, eggs and dairy – are subjected to fewer and fewer controls. Several scandals have recently hit the headlines, including tainted baby milk and eggs as well as meat unfit for human consumption. Consumers then legitimately wonder whether governments are effectively ensuring that businesses play by the rules – and whether they have the means to do so. Consumer mistrust in food products ultimately harms businesses and the economy as a whole,” said Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC.
Consumer mistrust in food products ultimately harms businesses and the economy as a whole…”
“New EU rules to harmonise member states’ reporting on food controls will soon kick in.2 These rules will make it easier to compare countries’ performances and to help spot those who are not taking their control duties seriously enough.
“Scores on the doors, ‘smileys’ and similar hygiene rating schemes help consumers decide where to eat and buy food. Yet, the new EU food controls law leaves it optional for member states to develop such tools. Some countries already lead by example;3 we hope that more will follow.”
1 Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, UK.
2 The Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625 will apply as of 14 December 2019.
3 Including the UK, Denmark and Norway.