The system instigated in Egypt to control microbiological risks in food of non-animal origin for export to the European Union is in a phase of transition and reform, according to a DG SANTE report. Their audit assessed official control systems in the production and processing of food of non-animal origin with a focus on fresh or frozen soft fruits and herbs and spices.
It found these controls can ensure strawberries, herbs and spices are produced under conditions which meet the EU’s general hygiene provisions for primary production and processing.
The audit, from late January to early February this year, included exporting firms for strawberries, herbs and spices, one service provider for disinfection of herbs and spices and four farms producing such products.
The National Food Safety Authority (NFSA) in Egypt was established in 2017 and at the time of the audit had 140 staff of which eight were veterinarians. The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Central Administration for Plant Quarantine (CAPQ) and Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) were agencies responsible for areas covered by the audit.
The CAPQ has 1,000 staff involved in food controls and MOHP has 3,000 staff part of official controls of food across Egypt, of which 2,000 are food inspectors in charge of looking at establishments. NFSA has started to take over official control duties of MOHP and CAPQ on food safety issues. In 2018, 21,000 food sites were temporarily suspended by the MOHP.
Egypt was subjected to the visit due to a past large outbreak in the EU linked to the consumption of food of non-animal origin and the volume of imports from the country. Egyptian data shows exports of fresh and dried herbs and spices to the EU was almost 12,900 tons in 2018 compared to 10,266 tons and 11,660 in the two previous years.
Exports of strawberries was more than 103,300 tons for fresh and 57,500 for frozen ones in 2018. The previous year had seen 65,280 tons of fresh and 32,000 tons of frozen strawberries exported to the EU.