It found communication within local competent authority units remains poor and deficiencies found by the audit team were not always identified and documented by the competent authority.
The Central Competent Authority (CCA) is the Ministry of Health (Ministerio del Salute) and Azienda Sanitare Locale is the local health unit.
The previous audit concerning the safety of food of animal origin in Italy was in 2010.
Mixed results in hygiene requirements
In terms of hygiene requirements, the official reports provided a detailed description of the establishment and the FBO procedures in place.
However, they did not provide an accurate reflection of compliance standards. The majority of non-compliances identified by the FVO audit team had not been recorded.
The FVO audit team visited seven establishments in March this year and said four were considered to be generally in compliance with requirements.
“In [one] establishment, heat treatment records for pasteurisation were not available. This establishment also exhibited significant deficiencies related to cleaning and maintenance (cold rooms generally dirty, rusty structures, condensation, flaking paint in food machines).
“In a third establishment, which had recently undergone upgrading considered satisfactory by the CA, maintenance problems persisted (flaking paint, exposed and damaged insulation, rust, condensation, cracks in walls and floors). The CA stated that these problems had recurred since their previous audit of the establishment, six months previously.”
FVO said that while none of the deficiencies represent an immediate risk for public health, the official control system does not ensure consistent compliance with general hygiene requirements.
The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) based system was evaluated in detail in one site.
“The process and procedures described in the HACCP documentation did not correspond to those seen in operation in the establishment. The HACCP procedure described for the pasteurisation process (temperature parameter) was not in line with legislative requirements,” found the audit.
FVO said HACCP based systems are in place but official controls are not sufficiently rigorous.
The audit team carried out traceability checks in two sites and said official controls are not fully effective.
“In one (a large milk collection centre) the quantities of milk sold to clients could not be easily correlated with the quantities received from individual suppliers (information on suppliers was required by the clients),” it said.
“In another, the same batch number was allocated to both pasteurised and unpasteurised milk. This establishment was exporting product to a third country which required that the product be made from pasteurised milk only.”
Building structure and raw milk
On one of the two milk production holdings visited, structure of the buildings was poor and impossible to keep clean, said FVO.
“An official control report for this holding indicated that “the walls are dirty” and “other species not properly separated”. The CA stated that no action had been taken concerning the poor structures because the municipality had determined that the location of the holding was unsuitable and that it was expected that the milk production holding would be relocated.
“On this first milk production holding, general hygiene was poor, there was insufficient pest protection during milk collection and animal welfare standards were unsatisfactory.”
FVO said official controls in the milk production holdings are not effective.
The FBOs have systems to control incoming raw milk but results are not always analysed, are not credible or when they are unsatisfactory the competent authority is not always notified, found the audit.
While no laboratories were visited, results were seen which undermine the credibility of accredited private laboratories, said FVO.
“On one of the milk production holdings visited, (selected by the FVO audit team), the FBO informed the competent authority (ASL) only after five consecutive non-compliant results for total bacterial count (TBC).
“The ASL had submitted samples to an official laboratory; the owner had submitted samples (collected by a producers’ association on his behalf) to an accredited laboratory. The results from the two laboratories were significantly different.”
FVO also noted a recommendation of a previous audit concerning monitoring of checks on raw milk had not been addressed.