The system of controls at EU borders on fruit and vegetable imports from non-EU countries is protecting consumers from potential food safety risks, according to the European Commission
In addition to routine controls on the imports, some commodities are subject to an increased level of controls due to their risk.
Over 100,000 consignments subject to reinforced controls reached EU borders in 2013, according to a report published this week.
Of those, 11,808 were sampled for laboratory analysis (+11% compared to 2012) and 483 (4.1% compared to 7.1% in 2012) were found in breach of EU legislation and prevented from entering the market.
Strawberries from China were analysed for Norovirus and Hepatitis A. In the four quarters, two issues of non-compliance were found out of almost 100 samples analysed.
Herbs and spices from Thailand were checked for Salmonella. In the four quarters, four issues of non-compliance were found from more than 150 samples analysed.
The level of compliance reported for certain commodities resulted in several de-listings: pomegranates from Egypt, Brassica vegetables from Thailand and tomatoes from Turkey (hazard: pesticide residues), hazelnuts from Azerbaijan, mace, ginger and curcuma from India, mace from Indonesia and groundnuts from South Africa (aflatoxins).
Border controls were reduced for aubergines and bitter melon from Dominican Republic, spices from India and aubergines, basil, coriander leaves and yard long beans from Thailand.
But were increasedfor Brassica oleracea from China based on quarterly results from member states.
Imports put in the list because of quarterly reviews included dried vine fruit from Afghanistan for the possible presence of ochratoxin A; strawberries from China for the possible presence of norovirus and hepatitis A virus.
Peas and beans from Kenya, mint from Morocco, dried beans from Nigeria and certain herbs, spices and vegetables from Vietnam for the possible presence of pesticide residues; watermelon seeds from Sierra Leone for the possible presence of aflatoxins were also featured.
Inclusion is based on data from notifications through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), reports and information from the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the Commission, scientific opinions of the European Food Safety Authority or other relevant scientific body, and information supplied by third countries' competent authorities.
The list of commodities subject to an increased level of border surveillance is reviewed every three months.
Watermelon originating from Brazil were included in the list as of 1 January 2013 due to their possible contamination with Salmonella but werede-listed from 1 October 2013
Commission Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 requires controlson the several million tonnes of imported feed and food reaching the European market from Third Countries when a known or emerging risk has been identified.
An example of commodities linked to presence of mycotoxins was dried grapes from Afghanistan, tested for Ochratoxin A from 1 January 2013 and subject to frequency of physical and identity checks of 50%.
In quarter 1, 3 and 4 they were no issues with compliance but in quarter 2 of the 31 consignments, 16 of which were analysed, five were reported as non-compliant.
For contaminants other than mycotoxins and pesticides, dried noodles from china were tested for aluminium.
Non-compliances were reported in every quarter but the highest was five from a consignment of 1,371 in quarter 3 in which 159 were analysed.
The product was listed as of 7 October 2010 and subject to frequency of physical and identity checks of 10% and delisted as of 1 April 2014.