According to a recently released report, many European countries are unable to perform planned checks on businesses, due to resource issues.
The report looked at national and EU Commission controls during 2017–2018, on food and feed law, animal health and welfare, plant health and protection products, organic farming, and quality schemes. The study's findings are from before the Official Controls Regulation came into existence in December 2019.
Checks are done by EU authorities to make sure businesses are complying with legislation. It is the responsibility of the member states for running risk-based official controls, planned in their multi-annual national control plans (MANCPs). Most EU countries said that staffing levels, as well as financial and equipment resources, were issues that impacted the plans.
Budget cuts resulting in reduced staff levels were common in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. These also declined further from past years, with insufficient financial and material resources.
Out of these countries, Finland, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain said they were unable to perform all tasks planned in their MANCPs. Malta, Spain, and Sweden also had difficulties in hiring qualified staff. The Czech Republic, France, and Netherlands all increased staff numbers to deal with certain issues like food fraud and Brexit preparation.
Countries that had improved data analysis, training, use of IT tools, and desk-based controls were able to improve efficiency. The use of whole genome sequencing for analysis of Listeria outbreaks, plus creation of control networks in specialized sectors, like food additives and flavorings, also helped improve efficiency.
The EU Commission said that there cannot be complacency towards food safety, and that countries need to implement all planned control activities.