The European Union's system for quick exchange of information on risks linked to food and feed has further grown in importance during 2010, the system's annual report reveals.
The 2010 annual report of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), notes that the number of notifications in RASFF rose to 8,582 last year.
This is a record number and constitutes an increase of 8% compared to 2009, when the number of notifications was slightly under 8,000.
This growth in notifications, taking place for the third consecutive year, is largely down to rejections of consignments at EU borders in the light of the strengthening of border controls.
There were also 576 alert notifications reporting on serious risks found in products on the market, a small increase compared to 2009.
Mycotoxins stopped at border
Border rejection notifications concern products that were refused entry into the Community and were given another destination or were destroyed.
More than three out of ten (34%) border rejections concerned products refused entry because of high levels of mycotoxins.
The second most frequent reason for rejection was the presence of pesticide residues above the limits set in legislation.
50% feed and food
Almost one out of two notifications in 2010 is about a feed, food or food contact material rejected at the EU border due to a risk posed to food safety.
When such a product is identified, the RASFF informs the third country in question, in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem, in most cases through its online RASFF Window platform.
When a serious and persistent problem is detected, the Commission sends a letter to the national authorities of the third country concerned, asking them to implement corrective measures such as delisting establishments, blocking exports or intensifying controls.
The RASFF report breaks down the overall number of notifications in 2010 into alert (576), information (1,168) and border rejection (1,552) notifications.
Alert notifications are sent when the food or feed presenting a serious risk is already on the market and immediate action is required.
Two-thirds EU origin
Two-thirds of the alert notifications in 2010 related to products originating in the EU, and most of these problems were detected by controls carried out on the market.
Among the risks most reported through these alerts were the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms, heavy metals, allergens and mycotoxins.
Information notifications are sent when a risk has been identified but immediate action by other Member States is not necessary either because the product is not yet or not anymore on the market or because the risk is of a non-serious nature.
About half of the information notifications (52%) were on products originating in third countries. Among the risks most reported for information notifications were the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms, pesticide residues, heavy metals and non-compliances regarding food additives.