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Food safety regime is strong but overstretched


Although the EU food safety model is among the toughest in the world, it could still be more effective and consistent across the bloc, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said in a report issued Tuesday. 

The auditors commended the bloc's food safety regime as "a point of reference around the world" in terms of rigour, comprehensiveness, and coordination. 

However, the European Union could do more do strengthen some components, the auditors said. 

For example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which offers scientific advice to policymakers, is struggling with backlogs, including in the case of chemicals. This problem affects the functioning of the entire system of food safety checks, according to the report. 

The auditors also noted the private and public sectors are both responsible for food-safety checks, since governments cannot handle this responsibility alone. At the same time, member states vary in terms of the strength of their public controls. 

Although this fact means public efforts need to be complemented by the private sector, "the synergies between public and private control system have only started to be explored," the report said. 

The report noted there remains scope for more "complementarity" between public and private checks so that governments are less burdened. 

Another issue is how to address non-compliance in a systematic way, as some member states "face difficulties in determining the nature of enforcement action." (dpa) 

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