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EU assesses food safety situation in Western Balkans – Food Safety News

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The European Commission has looked at progress in the food safety systems of countries that are trying to become EU member states.
The reports cover many sectors and developments in the past year in Kosovo, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was found to have made no progress in the area of agriculture, which includes food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, and fisheries, where preparation is mostly at an early stage.
Bosnia’s Salmonella control
The country must align legislation on food safety, and veterinary and phytosanitary policy with the EU and strengthen administrative capacities. More efforts are also needed to prepare and adopt a countrywide strategy on fisheries and aquaculture and harmonize data collection.
It should speed up preparations for National Reference Laboratories for food and hygiene, provide an updated National Salmonella Control Plan, meet criteria to export table eggs to the EU, and maintain vaccination against brucellosis.
Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to improve the system to ensure public and animal health requirements for the export of bovine, ovine, and caprine meat. The country needs to align its official food and feed control system with the EU and introduce inter-lab comparative tests.
There was no progress in setting up the country’s reference lab for testing, controlling, and monitoring the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and feed.
Ensuring resources in Kosovo
Kosovo made some progress on food safety as well as veterinary and phytosanitary policy.
A longstanding issue of transferring 75 inspectors from municipalities to the Kosovo Food and Veterinary Agency was resolved. However, financial resources need to be ensured for the authority to have enough inspectors.
The food and veterinary lab participated in proficiency testing with EU reference laboratories. However, no progress was made in getting international accreditation.
Some progress was made in developing IT infrastructure for managing food control and traceability, and the laboratory information management system of the food agency.
Kosovo introduced export restrictions in April 2022 on some products, including wheat, corn, cereal, flour and edible oil, without explanations or prior consultation with the EU Commission. The EU said these measures should be lifted without delay unless there was a sufficient justification.
Issues in Albania
Albania has some level of preparation in most areas including food safety and veterinary and phytosanitary but progress was limited.
Albania needs to enhance official controls and train staff to implement the annual inspection plans. The National Food Authority has yet to improve the quality of inspection statistics, instead of just the number of checks or measures taken on infringements.
There is ongoing alignment with the EU on microbiological criteria of food products; hygiene requirements for meat and meat products and maximum level of pesticide residues in fruits, vegetables, and fresh and processed seeds.
Data management needs to be improved to reduce the administrative burden of planning and reporting risk-based official controls and to ensure transparency of national data. The lab network also needs to be enhanced.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) are helping Albania improve food safety as part of a project which began in 2019 and ends in early 2023.
In the coming year, Albania should adopt a national food safety policy and align relevant laws on official controls, animal health, and plant health.
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