EU Loosens Grip on Food Safety Controls

Temporary measures to official controls are aiming to keep the food supply chain safe.
Temporary measures to official controls are aiming to keep the food supply chain safe.

April 1, 2020 — In response to growing concerns on how to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission has announced it will allow for flexibility to conduct official controls in the food supply chain.

One of the main challenges are the restrictions that are being put on people moving around. As a result, member states have voiced their concerns to the European Commission that they are unable to send staff to conduct their official controls as required by EU Regulation (EU) 2017/625.

Official controls that are experiencing difficulties being performed are:

  • clinical examinations of animals
  • checks on products of animal origin
  • checks on plant products
  • checks on food and feed of non-animal origin
  • testing of samples in laboratories designated by member states

Some of the temporary measures put in place include allowing clinical controls on animals, plants, and feed to be carried out using people authorized by national authorities. Also, when labs that are designated by member states are not available, testing on samples may be done in labs that are designated by authorities. The temporary measures have been instated for 2 months only, and they will be reviewed to determine the success of their application.

Despite the good intentions of these temporary measures, these changes do not come without their risks. Official controls are put in place to keep the food supply chain safe and to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks. Changes to the way these controls are conducted allows for the risks like food-borne illness outbreaks to increase. Right now, the EU Commission is insinuating that conducting official controls, even if they are not done completely to code, is better than doing no controls at all. Nonetheless, the results of these temporary changes remain to be seen in the coming months.