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Food and Feed Safety (04-12-2015)

Food fraud: Reports on EU-wide control plans on fish species substitution and honey adulteration are published today

Today, the European Commission published the results of EU-wide control plans to assess the prevalence of fraudulent practices in the marketing of fish and honey. The 28 Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland, carried out controls from June to November 2015 according to harmonised sampling and testing methods.

The controls on fish were intended to identify species substitution in fishery products of white fish species. Nearly 4000 samples of 150 different species were collected from all stages of the food production chain. They distributed between unprocessed products (62%) and processed products (38%).

The controls confirmed that the species declared on the label was correct for 94% of the samples. Non-compliant samples were slightly more frequent at "Border inspection posts, retail and mass caterers" level than at "markets/traders, cold stores and processing establishments" level. The most common non-compliances were detected in Grouper (Epinephelus spp.), Common sole (Solea solea) and Yellowfin sole (Limanda aspera).

The controls on honey were intended to verify the compliance with regard to sugar content and the labelling of botanical source and geographical origin. The non-compliances detected amongst more than 2200 samples taken at all stages of the food production chain, were mostly related to the declaration of the botanical source (7%) and to adulteration with added sugar (6%). Non-compliances related to the declaration of the geographical origin were less frequent (2%), but are difficult to detect. Adulteration with sugar is often the result of fraudulent practices.

In addition, 13% of the honey samples were classified as "suspicion of non-compliance" with regard to their geographical origin (2%) or to a possible adulteration with sugar (11%). The results concerning adulteration with sugar are only preliminary due to the limitations of the current validated test which cannot effectively detect the presence of certain categories of added sugars. Further investigations will be conducted by Joint Research Centre of the European Commission on 1200 samples that will be tested with advanced laboratory methods. The final report is expected by July 2016.

In cases of non-compliance, it is for the Member State to apprehend the causes, intentions and motives. Member States have been taking action, in accordance with national rules, to ensure that non-compliances detected in the context of these coordinated controls are remedied, and have to apply penalties as appropriate.

These coordinated controls on fish and honey products are part of the ongoing Commission's action against fraudulent practices in the food chain. Recent activities in this area include the launch, earlier this year, of a dedicated IT tool (the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation system) intended to facilitate the exchange of information between national enforcement authorities in the case of cross-border violations of food chain rules.

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