Russian vets replace threat of blanket ban with proposed 100% testing of all fresh fish shipments from Norway

April 26, 2013 10:57

During a recent meeting at ESE, Brussels, with Russian and Norwegian operators of Russian fresh salmon and trut market Yevgeny Nepoklonov, Deputy Head of the Rosselkhoznadzor, replaced threat of blanket ban with proposed 100% testing of all fresh fish shipments from Norway as a temporatry forced measure due to deficiencies of Norwegian food safety system, reports with reference to Rosselkhoznadzor.


Last week during negotiations between Yevgeny Nepoklonov, Deputy Head of the Rosselkhoznadzor, and Bjørn R. Knudsen, Regional Director of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) possible blanket ban was on the agenda.


According to Rosselkhoznadzor, the negotiations last week were held at the initiative of the Russian party. While talking about the audit of the Norwegian system for ensuring safety of fish products supplied to the markets of the Customs Union member countries Yevgeny Nepoklonov  explained that Rosselkhoznadzor should discuss possible dates of the audit with the Veterinary Services of Kazakhstan and Belarus. Herewith, the Rosselkhoznadzor expects from the Norwegian party proposals on preferable dates of the audit.


 Yevgeny Nepoklonov expressed extremely grave concern on the fact that during the recent weeks several RF and CU law violations had been identified during laboratory safety monitoring of fish exported from Norway. Thus, coliform bacteria or mesophilic aerobic and facultative anaerobic microorganisms were detected in two commercial consignments of chilled trout and in a consignment of salmon; live helmint larvae were detected in cod liver; listeria were detected in hake consignment.


While talking about microbial contamination Bjørn Knudsen supposed that such contamination was a result of non compliance with temperature regime during the product transportation. For instance it could happen in case drivers of refrigerated carriers turned off chilling system as soon as they left the territory of Norway; and presence of roundworms in fish liver is not something extraordinary.


As for listeria in fish Bjørn Knudsen supposed that there could be an internal control failure in the fish processing plant but that plant would be inspected by Mattilsynet. Herewith he mentioned that as fish is subject to heat treatment during cooking listeria will die.


Yevgeny Nepoklonov in his turn noticed that according to previous agreement Mattilsynet undertook a commitment to supply fish products only by vehicles equipped with refrigerators in order to maintain prescribed temperature; and microbial contamination of food products is prohibited by law. He also mentioned that Russian Law prohibits any live helmint larvae in food products. Thus, veterinary certification of products supplied into Russia was a mere formality and guarantees of the product conformity with RF and CU legislation are not valid. Such non-compliances are consistent, Yevgeny Nepoklonov emphasized, as microbial contamination were repeatedly identified in the products supplied from the same plants. Just like helmint larvae were detected in products from the plant, which had recently had the same non-compliance.


To the Bjørn Knudsen’s remark that nematodosis causing roundworm larvae die during product cooking Yevgeny Nepoklonov reminded that freedom from live larvae in fish is a RF legal requirement obligatory for all suppliers.


Bjørn Knudsen suggested that a teleconference should be arranged in the second half of May to discuss the issues of mutual interest. He asked Yevgeny Nepoklonov not to suspend supplies from the offending plants promising to take all necessary measures to improve veterinary and sanitary status of the supplies and inform on the measures taken at the May teleconference.


 Yevgeny Nepoklonov drew attention of the Norwegian delegation to the fact that all severe non-compliances were associated with chilled products intended for immediate distribution in the retail chain which posed a threat for consumer health. It should be taken into account that the Rosselkhoznadzor can not test every consignment using laboratory methods and has to perform only random monitoring. Besides, Yevgeny Nepoklonov expressed his disappointment with the Norway’s failure to fulfill the previously reached arrangements concerning the rapid exchange of information.


Russian fishing vessels


Thus, during the previous 4 months the Rosselkhoznadzor did not get either the technical information requested from the Mattilsynet or response to the letter concerning the agreement of the veterinary certificate for the products from Russian fishing vessels temporary stored in the territory of Norway.


No labeling


Yvgeny Nepoklonov also mentioned the increased number of non-compliances detected in documents accompanying fish products exported to Russia – very often packages with fish were not labeled with the name of the manufacturer and its details. Starting from the middle of January of the current year 51 such violations were detected by the Rosselkhoznadzor. This fact is one more evidence of the non-validity of the veterinary certificates issued by the Mattilsynet.


Mattilsynet responsible


A year before, reminded Yevgeny Nepoklonov, the Mattilsynet committed to provide the Rosselkhoznadzor with electronic copies of all certificates issued by Norway for the products to be exported to Russia. This commitment has not been fulfilled yet. As for the systemic character of violations detected during the inspections of the Norwegian exporting plants, border control and food safety monitoring, Yevgeny Nepoklonov emphasized that rather the Service itself than the plants should be blamed for these violations as the Mattilsynet must be responsible for the correct and reliable certification of regulated consignments intended for the Customs Union. Bjørn Knudsen asked Yevgeny Nepoklonov to include more Norwegian establishments to the List of plants authorized for export to the Customs Union against the guarantees of the Service. Yevgeny Nepoklonov answered that as the Mattilsynet was not able to prevent severe violations in veterinary certification of the products to be exported, the Rosselkhoznadzor could not accept its guarantees.


Two ways


The list of authorized establishments can be, however, extended in two ways: inspection of plants and audit of the system ensuring safety of food exported from Norway. Considering both the systemic character and severity of the violations detected in fish imports from Norway, The Rosselkhznadzor Deputy Head warned that as the Russian CVO he reserved the right to completely suspend import of chilled fish from Norway if no appropriate guarantees and action plan aimed at the safety improvement of Norwegian fish products supplied to the CU market was not received within the nearest week. Within the same period of time the Rosselkhoznadzor is open for suggestions from the Russian and Norwegian fish business operators for the improvement of safety guarantees as regards chilled fish products exported from Norway to Russia.


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