An audit, from 20 to 31 January, said that although there are ways to ensure cooperation between competent authorities, it is lacking around the organisation of this type of testing.
Plans for food contaminant control are drawn up separately by the NSVFSA and the Ministry of Health every year.
Competent authorities’ reaction
The National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (NSVFSA) performs controls (sampling and inspections) for food contaminants within the Surveillance and Control Programme (SCP).
According to the competent authorities, previous controls, risks related to the foodstuff, food establishments' production capacity and FBO's compliance history are considered.
Contaminant controls by the Ministry of Health are sampling cereal-based baby foods for nitrate and heavy metals analyses and food supplements for heavy metals analyses.
Responding to the results, NSVFSA said it organised a meeting with the Ministry of Health representatives to discuss organisation of sampling and analyses for contaminants in baby foods after the audit.
“NSVFSA asked MH, responsible for this field, to prepare the final decision regarding sampling and analytical capacity till the end of first semester of 2014.”
The Ministry of Health added: “The MH’s capacity of performing sampling and analyses for contaminants in baby foods is in a process of analysis. When a decision is taken (at high level) the NSFVSA will be officially informed.”
Objectives were to verify that the official controls for contaminants in food are organised and carried out in accordance with the relevant regulation, of the council, and the Multi-Annual National Control Plan (MANCP) prepared by Romania.
It also evaluated the implementation of EU legislation and gathered information about the results of investigations on food contaminants in Commission recommendations.
Controls at primary production
Official controls applied at primary production of Food of Non-Animal Origin (FNAO) are not risk based, said the FVO.
This means that the potential risks arising from environmental and agricultural food contaminants are not taken into account in the planning of these controls.
NSVFSA said an amendment order was published to delegate competencies to the agency regarding official control on legal requirements for public health at the primary producers who applied for support to Agency of Paying and Intervention for Agriculture (APIA).
NSVFSA has a sampling plan for contaminants testing and contaminants-related inspection activities in food sites.
FVO said its effectiveness is weakened by some shortcomings in the annual sampling strategy and the late approval for its implementation.
Official contaminant controls (on the spot) were weak as staff had received no instructions on the scope of the contaminant inspections and had insufficient knowledge on the assessment of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)based procedures.
However, the inspectors were aware of the sampling requirements and were well equipped.
NSVFSA said it will issue a service note signed by its president with the laboratories in official control for the specific field of competencies, till the end of first semester 2014.
The Ministry of Health asked the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) to specify in the annual sampling methodology that contaminants analyses must be tested only in the accredited labs and to specify which labs.
FVO found that laboratories have the competence and capacity to analyse samples for contaminants but their performance is hampered by a lack of some validated methods with a lack of certified reference materials and limited participation in proficiency tests.
Not all required National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) had been designated but they do their duties as required by Article 33 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004.
NSVFSA said an order approving NRLs and their attributions, published in 2007 will be modified to designate NRLs for contaminants where one was not yet set, by the end of 2014.