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EFTA finds veg control system in Iceland is ‘insufficient’

By Joe Whitworth+

10-Jun-2014
Last updated on 10-Jun-2014 at 14:53 GMT

EFTA Surveillance Authority said the system is at a preliminary stage
EFTA Surveillance Authority said the system is at a preliminary stage

The control system for growing and harvesting of vegetables is ‘insufficient’, according to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The EFTA Surveillance Authority said the Icelandic system is at a preliminary stage, and has been focused on after-harvesting activities after an inspection in March .

Controls on the after-harvesting activities of production, such as packing of vegetables at farm level is in line with the relevant European Economic Area (EEA) requirements.

However, controls have not been prioritized by the competent authorities in Iceland and only to a limited extent cover the phase of growing and harvesting the vegetables, said EFTA.

Investigation findings

Two authorities were responsible for the official controls, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) and the Local Municipal Environmental Health and Protection Offices (LCAs).

Shortcomings included MAST not carrying out official controls on a regular basis for growing and harvesting and communications between the two agencies was not always ensured.

Efficient and effective coordination and cooperation between the competent authorities can be improved as well as the consistency of the official controls, in particular since MAST was not carrying out official controls on regular basis and the LCAs to a various degree covered the control on growing and harvesting,” said the EFTA report.

Although the competent authorities had designated laboratories that may carry out the analysis of samples taken during official controls full compliance with EEA legislation could not be ensured since not all methods used are accredited.”

Iceland has also not designated a National Reference Laboratory for all of the relevant bacteriological and chemical parameters, found the investigation.

Iceland response

It was the first mission to Iceland focusing on primary production of food of non-animal origin within the framework of the Food Hygiene Package which entered into force 1 November 2011.

In response on the coordination and cooperation point, MAST and LCAs said a recommendation will be made for an amendment on the act on Foodstuffs regarding the responsibility of official controls of primary production of food of non-animal origin.

“With such an amendment the official controls of growing, harvesting, packaging and distribution will fall under the control of a single authority,” said the agencies.

The authorities said that the Swedish board for accreditation and conformity assessment (SWEDAC) will visit Matís laboratory to evaluate and accredit new equipment and methods to analyse plant protection product residues in fruits and vegetables later this year.

“Following that visit, Matis expects to be accredited for analysing 100 PPP residues. Work will continue in 2015 to get more residues and matrixes accredited.”   

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