Shortcomings in origin information on wild products

8.12.2006

<div>Marketers need to improve the documentation of the origin information and traceability of wild products. In a national monitoring project run last year, municipal food control authorities checked the origin information and traceability of blueberries, lingonberries, cranberries, cloudberries and chanterelles on sale at different types of sales points.</div>

Under the Food Act (23/2006), food business operators must possess sufficient and accurate information about the food they produce, process and distribute. Accordingly, operators must have written documentation of the country of origin of any product. This information enables operators to give accurate origin information to consumers. Traceability provisions are given in the EC general food law (178/2002). All food business operators must have information on who their suppliers are and when products have been sold or delivered to them, and also on to whom they themselves have supplied products and when (traceability one step forward and one step backward in the chain). Traceability information is needed for instance for management of crisis situations and for performing of targeted recalls.

There were 142 inspections into the origin information of wild products, and in only 64% of these could reliable written documentation of origin be found. In 18% of the cases, the origin of the product could not be ascertained at all. In a further 17% of the cases, documentation of origin was not required, because the products were prepacked and the inspection was not carried out in the premises of the packager. In two cases the shipping documents and packaging labels gave conflicting information as to the origin of the products.

Traceability, i.e. the supplier’s contact information and sale/delivery date, was checked in 42 inspections. The required information was only found in 56% of the cases. Over 40% of the product batches inspected were found to have incomplete traceability information or none at all. The project also involved tracing 11 batches of wild products from the site of inspection back through the chain to see whether the traceability works in practice.

The Finnish Customs participated in the monitoring project by investigating the safety and quality of 86 batches of imported wild products. The Customs Laboratory checked samples for microbiological quality, radioactivity and heavy metal traces. 4.6% of the batches checked were in violation of current regulations, and remarks were issued for 24% of the batches. The grounds for all the rejections and remarks were poor microbiological quality. The majority of the rejected batches (3 batches) were fresh or frozen berries where excessive amount of mould or yeast was found.

Based on this monitoring project, instructions are being drawn up for food business operators concerning own control taking into account requirements for origin and traceability. Municipal food control authorities will be trained in the monitoring of own control, and similar monitoring projects will be organized for other products too.

Further information:
Arja Kaiponen, Senior Officer, Product Safety and Marketing Unit, Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, tel. +358 20 77 24288
Katri Hyysalo, Product Safety Manager, Customs Laboratory, +358 20 49 23218

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