The Italian Ministry of Health has published a report on food safety in the European Union based on alert and information notifications registered by Member States at the RASFF – Rapid Alert System on Food and Feed (and Food Contact Materials, FCM) – in 2022. Pesticide residues, pathogenic microorganisms and allergens characterize the scenario.
trend down on fruit and vegetables (which also maintain the first place for number of reports), poultry meat, fishery products, food contact materials (FCM), herbs and spices. On the other hand, notifications on nuts, nut and seed products, diet and fortified foods, food supplements, cereals and baked goods are increasing.
1) RASFF, the 2022 notifications
Rasff – the European rapid alert system on food safety, feed, food contact materials (FCM) – recorded a total of 2022 notifications in 4.339, distributed as follows:
– food and drinks, 3.888 notifications,
– feed, 233 notifications,
– food contact materials (FCM), 218 cases.
2) Most active countries in notifications
Germany it is the first country in terms of number of notifications with 586 notifications (13,5% of the total). Following:
– Netherlands, 558 notifications (12,8%),
– Belgium, 422 notifications (9,7%),
– Spain, 324 notifications (7,5%).
2.1) Notifications from Italy to the RASFF in 2022
Italy it is fifth in the standings, together with Poland, with 318 notifications (7,3% of the total). The notifications made by Italy to the RASFF in 2022 mainly concern:
– nuts, nut and seed products (17,9%),
– fruit and vegetables (16,3%),
– fish and fishery products (13,8%).
The dangers registered food safety standards pertain to contamination from:
– mycotoxins (24,5%),
– pathogenic microorganisms (17,7%),
– pesticide residues (14,1%),
– heavy metals (11,6%).
3) Origin of the foods subject to notifications
The highest number of reports at RASFF in 2022 concerns products with origin from:
- Türkiye. 558 notifications, equal to 11,9% of the total,
– India. 324 notifications, 6,9% of the total,
- China. 322 notifications, 6,9%.
Italy it is involved in 146 reports, equal to 3,1% of the total.
4) Most reported hazards at RASFF in 2022
The security dangers most reported through notifications to the RASFF in 2022 pertain to:
– pathogenic microorganisms, almost always serovars of Salmonella,
5) Food safety risks recorded by product category
The analysis of notifications performed at RASFF in 2022 allows to identify the most encountered food safety risks in the different categories of food, feed and food contact materials (FCM).
5.1) Fish and fishery products
Notifications at the RASFF on fish and fishery products, in 2022, there were 237. Above all on products originating from Spain, Morocco and France. The largest number of notifications concerns:
- heavy metals (48 notifications, equal to 19,6% of the category total). Mercury was reported 45 times (93,75% of cases), cadmium on 3 occasions (6,25%), exceeding the legal limits. The countries of origin most involved are Spain, Morocco and Indonesia,
– hygienic deficiencies (40, 16,3% of the total for the category). Failure to control the temperature (33 cases, 80,49% of the total), unauthorized operators (6 cases, 14,63% of the total), insufficient controls (1 case), traceability defects (1 case). The country of origin with the most notifications was Morocco,
– microbiological contaminants (39, 15,9%). Almost all of these notifications concern contamination by Listeria monocytogenes. The countries of origin most involved were France and Poland,
– biological contaminants (33, 13,5% of the category total). L'histamine continues to dominate the scene, almost always (and as always) with Spanish origins,
– parasites (25, 10,2% of the total). The presence of Anisakis was reported in 23 cases. The main origin of the non-conforming products is Morocco.
5.2) Molluscs and crustaceans
The bivalve molluscs (mussels, clams, cockles, oysters) were the subject of 75 notifications to the RASFF in 2022, mainly due to contamination by:
– pathogenic microorganisms (46, equal to 57,5% of non-conformities on bivalve molluscs),
– microbiological contaminants (13, 16,3% of cases on bivalve molluscs),
– natural toxins (8, 10% of non-conformities on bivalve molluscs). N (35 notifications), Escherichia coli (12 cases), Salmonella (9 cases). France, Spain, Italy and Holland are the main countries of origin.
The cephalopod molluscs (cuttlefish, octopuses, squid, squid) were the subject of 28 notifications for heavy metals (cadmium), hygienic deficiencies (temperature) and documentary evidence. Spain, India and Morocco are the first countries of origin involved.
Crustaceans (prawns, prawns, lobsters, lobsters, etc.) collected 64 notifications, especially for pathogenic microorganisms (28 cases, 43,1% on crustaceans), temperature control deficiencies (7 cases, 10,8%), additives and flavorings (7 cases, 10,8% XNUMX%). The most frequent danger is the presence of Vibrio vulnificus (15 cases, equal to 48,4% of pathogenic microorganisms). The countries of origin with the highest number of notifications are Ecuador and China.
5.3) Meats and poultry
199 cases of food safety relating to meat (excluding poultry) concerned microbiological contamination
da Salmonella (47) Listeria monocytogenes (28) ed Escherichia coli STEC (26). The countries with the highest number of alerts are the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Germany. As many as 16 reports concern the presence of undeclared allergens, especially soy and gluten.
Poultry recorded 329 non-conformities, mainly due to the presence of pathogenic microorganisms (88,2%), Primarily Salmonella, microbiological contamination (3,1%), allergens (1,8%) and residues of veterinary drugs (1,8%). The country of origin with the highest number of notifications is Poland, followed by Brazil and Hungary.
The snails finally, from Morocco, they caused two foodborne illnesses in Spain.
5.4) Milk and honey
99 cases of food safety notified to the RASFF in 2022 on milk and dairy products pertain to microbiological risks (49,5%). Soar there Listeria monocytogenes (53,7%), followed by E.coli producer of Shiga toxin (18,52%). Origin France in first place, Italy and the Netherlands to follow.
Honey and other beehive products have registered only 5 notifications of food safety risks, due to pesticide and antibiotic residues. The countries of origin of the products are China, Spain and Turkey, notifications were made by Belgium and the Netherlands.
5.5) Fruit and vegetables, dried fruit and seeds
Fruits and vegetables remain at the top of the list of RASFF notifications, 821 in 2022. The main, often competing, food safety risks concerned:
– pesticide residues (595 notifications, 71,4% of the category total),
– mycotoxins (91 cases, 10,9%),
– heavy metals (35, 4,2%),
– food additives and flavorings (25, 3,0%).
Among the pesticide residues in six cases the presence of the insecticide ethylene oxide (banned in Europe) was found, in four cases the presence of its metabolite (2-chlorine ethanol). The country with the most notifications is Turkey, followed by Egypt and India.
Nuts and seeds are in second place for the number of reports, 493. The main problem concerns mycotoxin contamination. Following Salmonella subsp.
5.6) Cereals and derivatives
284 notifications on cereals and derivatives are associated with:
– presence of mycotoxins (80 cases, equal to 28% of the category total), a significant increase compared to 2021 (21 reports). Aflatoxins (60), ochratoxin A (19), fumonisins (3) and zearalenone,
– pesticide residues (74, equal to 25,9% of reports in the category),
– allergens not declared on the label (33).
The countries most involved are India, Pakistan and the Netherlands.
5.7) Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices recorded 296 alerts for serious food safety risk, due to:
– pesticide residues (117 cases, 39,5% of the total category), Chlorpyrifos (in primis),
– pathogenic microorganisms (70 notifications, 23,7%), above all Salmonella spp.,
– mycotoxins (27 reports, 9,1%).
The country of origin India has the most notifications for herbs and spices, followed by Brazil and Turkey.
5.8) Dietary foods and food supplements
Dietetic products and supplements foodstuffs collected 382 reports to RASFF in 2022. Most of the notifications concern products sold through E-commerce, especially with origins in the USA, UK and Germany.
The main irregularities pertain to the use of unauthorized substances and/or with dosages exceeding the limits, classified in the table under the item composition (27%). Reports relating to the following follow novel foods (24,9%) unauthorized and those relating to the presence of pesticides (10,5%), ethylene oxide and its metabolite 2-chlorine ethanol above all.
5.9) Food additives and flavourings
42 notifications on food additives and flavorings hazardous to human health concern:
– pesticides (54,7% of the total on food additives and flavourings), with ethylene oxide and its metabolite topping the list,
– undeclared allergens (especially peanuts, with the benefit of an inventory for false alert on soy lecithin), 16,7% of the total.
The highest number of notifications concern products originating from India, Turkey, France and the United Kingdom.
5.10) Ice cream and sweets
26 non-compliance of impact on food safety, including ice cream and sweets, concern:
– presence of pesticides (30,7% of the total category), again due to ethylene oxide,
– allergens not declared on the label,
– foreign bodies.
France and Türkiye are the main countries of origin.
5.11) Pastry and confectionery products
Pastry and confectionery products collected 67 reports to RASFF in 2022, related to:
– undeclared allergens and additives (equal to 20,9% of the total notifications concerning pastry and confectionery products). 15 notifications for unauthorized dyes and 7 for undeclared milk proteins
– pathogenic microorganisms (equal to 16,4% of the total), Salmonella above all.
Notifications they mainly concern products with origins in Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
5.12) Fats and oils
51 records found of fats and oils at risk for food safety and public health concern:
– process contaminants (25,5% of the category total). In particular glycidyl esters and 3-MCPD, characteristic of palm oiloften found together.
– composition (19,6 %), often tainted by carcinogenic dyes (Sudan 3 and 4),
– environmental contaminants (13,7% of the total) especially for benzoapyrene,
– online food fraud (13,7% of the total).
The countries of origin with the highest number of notifications for fats and oils were Ghana and the Netherlands, those who notified the most were the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
5.13) Soups, broths and sauces
44 non-compliance of food safety concern:
– presence of allergens (31,8% of non-conformities),
– food additives and flavorings (11,4% of cases),
– migration of substances from food contact materials (11,4% of notifications, all related to migration of phthalates),
– pesticides (11,4% of non-conformities).
Most of the reports on soups, stocks and sauces concerned products of Italian and Belgian origin.
5.14) Ready meals and snacks
Ready meals and snacks with food safety issues generated 111 RASFF alerts in 2022, due to:
– allergens (25,2% of non-conformities, mainly milk),
– foreign bodies (15,3%),
– pesticides (13,5%), 2-chloroethanol mainly,
– microbiological contaminants (9%),
– pathogenic microorganisms (9%), Listeria monocytogenes e Salmonella spp in most cases, E.coli following.
The origin of the products it varies but the countries most involved are the Netherlands, Vietnam, Belgium and France.
Beverages were the subject of 61 notifications and 65 non-conformities. The most frequent reports concern non-alcoholic beverages due to the presence of novel foods (7 cases), additives and flavors (7), undeclared allergens (5) and compositional hazards (3).
5.16) Cocoa and derivatives, tea and coffee
85 records found of non-compliance on cocoa and derivatives, tea and coffee, are linked to:
– pesticide residues (44,7% of non-conformities on chocolate, tea and coffee). Anthraquinone (12 cases), Dinotefuran (11 cases), and Chlorpyrifos and Lambda-Cyhalotrhin (8 cases each),
- novel foods (11, equal to 12,9% of non-conformities for chocolate, tea and coffee), Yohimbe (bark) and Artemisia Annua in 3 cases for both,
– undeclared allergens (7,1% of non-conformities for chocolate, tea and coffee).
The origin of the products notified is varied, although the largest number of notifications relating to chocolate and derivatives, tea and coffee concerns products from China and Belgium.
5.17) Eggs and egg products
Ten notifications concern eggs and derived products. The pathogen most involved is the Salmonella and the origin of non-conforming products is diverse, with Poland in first place.
6) Food contact materials
231 non-compliance enrolled in the RASFF in 2022 on food contact materials (FCM, or MOCA), especially from China and the UK, are characteristics of this category:
– composition (mainly for the use of bamboo fibers unauthorized),
– migration of substances such as primary aromatic amines (38 cases) and formaldehyde. (13).
7) Animal nutrition
Feed, compound feed, feed additives and premixtures registered 186 notifications to the RASFF in 2022. In detail:
– feed. Pathogenic microorganisms, all belonging to the genus Salmonella, express about half of the reports,
– compound feed. The presence of veterinary medicines is the most detected danger,
– feed additives. The prevailing risk is the presence of pesticides, ethylene oxide in first,
– premixes. The risks are equally distributed between pathogenic microorganisms and composition (50%).
The country with the highest number of reports in the field of animal nutrition is Germany, followed by the Netherlands and Poland.
7.1) Pet food
Salmonella spp. It is the most common pathogen in the petfood, with 49 notifications to the RASFF in 2022. Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland on the podium for lack of self-control.
8) Is that all?
The review of cases of food safety risks reported by EU Member States to the European Commission through the RASFF system in 2022 does not resolve some Hamlet's doubts:
– how is it possible that in a single European market where 448 million inhabitants consume €1,46 trillion in food and drink (2) are there only 3.888 notifications of food safety risks in a 12-month period?
– are official controls on the agri-food chain in actual decline, as reported by BEUC already in 2019? (3)
– how many cases are covered, (4) not notified or reported late minimized in phase of follow-up (5,6,7)?
- Which benchmarking are they used to evaluate the reliability of the data? (8) How big is theiceberg under the tip of the RASFF?
Dario Dongo and Marta Singed
(1) Raffaello Lena, Loredana Iuliano, Fabrizio Lazzara, Valentina Cambiotti, Giuseppe Molonia. RASFF, Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. Annual report 2022. https://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_3351_allegato.pdf Ministry of Health, DGISAN (General Directorate for Hygiene and Food Safety and Nutrition). General Director Dr. Ugo Della Marta. 1.8.23
(2) Key figures on the European food chain. 2022 edition. https://tinyurl.com/565hkxar Eurostat
(3) Marta Strinati. Official public controls in decline, the BEUC report. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(4) Dario Dongo. Mondeleaks, this is how industry and institutions have handled the mustard allergen in wheat. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(5) Dario Dongo, Marina De Nobili. Crisis management, the European Commission's master plan. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(6) Dario Dongo. Traceability and origin of meat, widespread fraud in France. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(7) Dario Dongo, Marta Singed. Listeria, the Spanish epidemic and the faults of Brussels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).
(8) The EFSA – ECDC reports on zoonoses for example, in expressing a small part of the food safety risks, offer more consistent data. See Dario Dongo. Zoonoses in Europe, report by EFSA and ECDC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).