Polish salmonella crisis might undercut EU formaldehyde ban

By Diana Yordanova

- Last updated on GMT

A proposed ban on formaldehyde is still under discussion at EU level
A proposed ban on formaldehyde is still under discussion at EU level

Related tags: European union, European commission, European food safety authority

Poland is unhappy that the European Commission is opposing the use of formaldehyde while it is in the middle of a salmonella crisis.

Formaldehyde is found to be an efficient tool to fight against the bacteria in animal feed which can cause salmonella.

The European Union (EU) executive has drafted a regulation preventing its use because the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) fears its possible inhalation might cause cancer in farm workers. However, in 2014, EFSA had concluded that formaldehyde did not pose a threat to consumer, animals or the environment at levels used by the poultry sector.

However, the proposed ban is still under discussion and was debated in July by the animal nutrition section of the EU’s standing committee on plants, animals, food and feed (SCOPAFF). And while no consensus was forged, the issue will be discussed again at a meeting scheduled for September 11-13, where a decision is expected to be made, with the European Commission, France and Italy opposing the chemical’s use, but Poland backing it – according to Brussels diplomats.

Industry needs tools

Poland’s large poultry industry is looking for all the help it can get to deal with its serious salmonella outbreak, which emerged last year and is ongoing. From the beginning of 2017 until the first week of August, 64 cases have been reported to the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Safety (RASFF). This compares to a total of 38 alerts, border rejections or information for attention messages in the same period in 2016. This is down from last September’s peak when nearly 60 cases were reported in a week.

But speaking to GlobalMeatNews​, the Polish National Poultry Council’s (Krajowa Rada Drobiarstwa) food safety and veterinary expert, Aleksandra Porada, called on the Commission to allow formaldehyde use to help end this outbreak. He said: “Producers should have wide range of effective tools in order to prevent or control salmonella. With strict protection for its users while adding to feed, we support allowing the use of formaldehyde as a feed additive.​”

EU officials, however, opposed this suggestion, telling GlobalMeatNews​ that “good manufacturing and farming practices contribute to control the risk of feed contamination with salmonella and other feed additives are available on the EU market in order to support these good hygiene practices​”.

For the time being, despite the outbreak, and also cases of avian influenza, Polish poultry export levels are holding up, said Porada: “As some third countries closed their markets to Polish poultry, exports didn’t slow down,” he said, with exporters redirecting supplies to markets still accepting the country’s products: “Polish poultry producers can react quickly to crisis situations.​”

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