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Norway meat labelling too weak says EU surveillance body

By Keith Nuthall , 20-Feb-2017
Last updated on 20-Feb-2017 at 16:43 GMT2017-02-20T16:43:56Z

The Norwegian government said it would take EFTA's criticism seriously
The Norwegian government said it would take EFTA's criticism seriously

The Norwegian government must improve its labelling controls for meat products, foodstuffs containing meat and additives used in such products, the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) Surveillance Authority has claimed.

EFTA has told Norway to tighten its monitoring and traceability systems following an inspection of the country’s meat labelling systems late last year (2016).

The authority concluded that Norway was breaching EU meat labelling laws in this way, because as a member of the EU-associated European Economic Area (EEA), Norway must follow these regulations. And the surveillance authority can order compliance, just as the European Commission does for EU member states.

In a statement, the surveillance authority declared: “Norway’s current control system on traceability and labelling of products containing meat, and on the use of additives in such products, is not sufficiently developed and implemented.”

Food safety standards
 
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s (NFSA’s) Mattilsynet has developed official controls checking whether meat quality is sufficient for products to be labelled compliant with Norway food safety standards. However, following its inspection, EFTA concluded that while that was the case, the frequency of checks on meat businesses was “not systematically based on risk”.

EFTA officials noted that 10 food businesses receiving visits from Mattilsynet during its inspection had traceability systems in place. However, controls by the national food safety authority only “covered part of the requirements for traceability and labelling”, EFTA said. As a result, national controls led to “undetected deficiencies”. The EFTA team concluded that this “inconsistent implementation of official controls” was due to lack of detailed instructions and guidance, insufficient training and weak coordination.

‘Not conclusive’

Meanwhile, the EFTA inspection found fault with efforts by Mattilsynet to trace samples taken at retailers back to their processing and production plants. These were “not conclusive”, said the EFTA authority, as documentation used “did not establish a link between the product and its ingredients in each step of the production chain back to the slaughterhouse of origin”.

A note to EFTA from the Norwegian government indicated that it would take the criticism seriously. It said Mattilsynet had been working on changes to ensure that official food and feed controls, animal health and welfare rules “are carried out on a risk basis”. It added that Mattilsynet would this year develop a standard operating procedure for official controls on food and ingredient traceability.

Oslo said it would also assess Norwegian checks on meat and meat product labelling and develop a new guideline on labelling fresh beef.

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