EU inspectors uncovered a raft of weaknesses in India´s safety procedures to prevent aflatoxin contamination that means exports cleared by officials may fail to reach European standards.
Experts from the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) logged the shortcomings after carrying out a 10-day visit to India following a leap in the number of aflatoxin notifications for spice exports on the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) in recent years. The report highlights several weak spots in the control systems but also shows that many improvements had been made since the previous inspection in 2004.
The supervision of control authorities of spice growers is not robust enough. There is a failure to ensure producers are implementing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) or Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Advisory services on these practices do exist but not all farmers, particularly larger-scale ones, are covered by these and therefore they might not be fully aware of GAP procedures, said the FVO report.
Instead, Indian officials have focussed on implementing aflatoxin controls prior to export. While a string of procedures are in place, the inspectors said many of the measures do not meet EU standards. While legislation has been introduced in India to regulate its 3,500 spice exporters - of which 220 ship into the EU - there are some gaps. There are no clear food hygiene rules laid down for food companies, including spice processors and it is not obligatory to implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). After examining official laboratory procedures, the inspectors found the analytical reports issued by the two accredited facilities did not follow EC requirements.
Indian spices are one of the products subject to heightened scrutiny under EC Regulation 669/2009 as a result of the higher than average RASFF notifications on the presence of aflatoxins in the foods. Currently, some 50% of shipments undergo physical inspection at EU borders. Following the introduction of the measure in 2010, the number of RASFF notifications jumped by 600% to 98, compared to 12 in the previous 12 months.
Source: European Commission