The auditors will examine whether the EU’s food safety model is “soundly based” and whether it works to keep food products consumed in the EU safe, particularly from chemical contamination.
Food safety can be put at risk by three types of hazards: physical, biological and chemical. However, the focus of the audit will be to look at the systems in place to prevent chemical hazards. These are poisonous substances that occur naturally or are added during food production or handling.
The ECA has highlighted items such as cleaning agents, pesticides and certain metals. It said that while there are checks to ensure that chemicals, such as pesticides in farming, are used lawfully, it was concerned about the residues that could remain at later stages in the food supply chain.
“One of the main objectives of the EU is to keep the food we consume safe. This audit should help consumers to better understand how the EU food safety model works and contribute to their confidence in EU food policy,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, the member of the ECA responsible for the audit.
While Brexit means the UK is to cease EU membership in 2019, it is expected that the majority of EU legislation will still apply, at least in the short term.
Publication in late 2018
The ECA will interview staff at the European Commission and relevant EU agencies and consult food industry stakeholders. They will visit three member states – the Netherlands, Italy (Liguria) and Slovenia – during the investigation and an audit report is due to be published in late 2018.
This report will form part of a series by the ECA on various aspects of the food chain.
The series has already looked at food waste (published in January 2017), and is investigating animal welfare (currently underway) and organic food (planned for 2018).
The ECA said that EU food safety policy took an integrated approach, covering the entire food chain, from animal feed, animal health, plant protection and food production to processing, storage, transport, import and export, as well as retail sales.