Sweden identifies focus areas for safe food

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cooperation between competent authorities to control food chain
Sweden has identified four key areas between all authorities involved in the food chain to ensure safe products.

The focus topics are coordinated and effective control; strengthened emergency preparedness; quicker action to the EU's views on Swedish control and more efficient monitoring of animal and food control.

Jordbruksverket (Swedish Board of Agriculture), SVA (National Veterinary Institute), Generalläkaren (the Surgeon General) länsstyrelserna och kommunerna (the county administrative boards and municipalities) and Livsmedelsverket (National Food Agency) are the agencies involved.

Livsmedelsverket (NFA) and Jordbruksverket (SBA) are central competent authorities. NFA for food and SBA for feed, animal health, welfare and plant health.

Since there are many competent authorities involved in the official controls in food chain, the cooperation between them is important, said Katarina Bäcklund Stålenheim, government inspector food control, planning department at Livsmedelsverket.

“Due to the devoted control organisation, a food business operator may have many component authorities.  As an example, a primary producer with milk production having a small dairy plant and a small café at the farm are controlled by three component authorities; the County Administrative Board (milk production), NFA (dairy plan) and the municipality (the café).

“To ensure that the controls are effective and to strengthen emergency preparedness coordination between the authorities are needed.

“The devolved control organisation and the big number of independent authorities also means to close recommendations (non-compliances) given by the EU’s auditors to improve the control system, means a lot of coordination work.

“Regarding more efficient monitoring of animal and food control, the efficiency varies a lot among the authorities. The system for monitoring and follow up of non-compliances found at the food business operators needs to be improved to ensure that the non-compliances are followed up and corrected by the food business operators as soon as possible.”

Norovirus and Campylobacter are among the focus areas, said Mats Lindblad, communicable disease coordination, support department at Livsmedelsverket.

“The most common agent causing foodborne outbreaks is norovirus, caused by a lack of personal hygiene at restaurants and other food establishments. Control of hygiene routines at local FBO is an important measure to improve the situation.

“As in the rest of EU, Campylobacteriosis is the most commonly reported foodborne bacterial disease. There is an ongoing national program organised by the national poultry association in cooperation and with support from national authorities.  As a result of the program, the prevalence of Campylobacter in poultry flocks has decreased from about 20% in 2002 to about 10% in recent years.

“Priority areas are primarily based on analyses of the situation in Sweden. But external monitoring is also important, and we may consider outbreaks and findings in other countries within Europe.”

There are currently no major ongoing outbreak investigations but a recent one came from Salmonella linked to spice mixes.

An annual report of Swedish control in the food chain is produced to monitor activities.

Bäcklund Stålenheim said in general, the official controls are good and food is safe but there are areas for improvements and significant differences between control authorities and control areas.

“The official control of food in primary production is low and basically focusing on control of the requirements related to control of cross compliance. The number of official controls on drinking water has increased but still needs to increase further.  

“Regarding number of non-compliances identified there is a large spread between different local control authorities. This indicates that the assessment varies and the official food controls not are consistent.”

The main areas for improvements are:

  • Training and deeper cooperation are needed within and between the competent authorities to ensure official controls are consistent.
  • Development of common operational objectives though the food chain to ensure better and common prioritisation of the official controls and resources.  
  • To reduce vulnerability and to use the resources and expertise optimally, improve the cooperation between the different authorities involved in the food chain.
  • Continue simplification of regulation and improve the support to the food business operators, make it easier to fulfil the requirements in the regulations

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