According to DG Sante, only limited progress has been made in Austria on improving the system to reduce microbiological contamination of food of non-animal origin (FNAO). The unit responsible for the European Commission’s policies on health and food safety led a follow-up audit to Austria last year.
The audit from June 12 to 20, 2018 included visits to five farms producing strawberries and gooseberries, tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and leafy vegetables and two sprout producing sites.
An initial audit in 2013 found the official control system for primary production of FNAO was not risk-based and did not take into account potential risks from microbiological contamination. Nine recommendations were made and at the time of the 2018 audit, three had been fully addressed, with one partly covered.
The audit team found central and regional authorities did not implement controls on microbiological risks before and during harvest so part of the production chain is not covered.
“The official controls do not cover primary production at farm level before and during harvest, leaving the majority of primary producers outside the official control regime. The controls over operators were not risk-based, except for those over sprout-producing establishments,” according to the report.
FNAO primary producers are in a system of risk categorization with ranking meaning authorities should carry out controls every ten years.
One sprout establishment did not analyze for Salmonella spp. as required by regulation. It was not noticed by the inspector and the business that a consignment of mung-beans was from a third country, and that import health-certificates would be required. Seeds were purchased from a trader in another member state.