EU helps make food products safer in Ukraine

The new legislation protects consumers from misleading information about the food product and the risk of allergy in a restaurant – a menu should say if a dish contains any allergens. Scheduled business checks have resumed , producer responsibility increased. From January 2020, fodders will be checked for antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. Bills are being prepared for new food products, such as chia grains and dietary supplements, a bill on packaging materials. The EU project “Improvement of Food Safety Control System in Ukraine” helps to align Ukrainian food legislation with European standards.

Five years ago, Ukraine signed the Association Agreement with the EU, under which it was under an obligation to bring food legislation in line with the standards of the European Union. Part of the obligation was fulfilled and part is still in progress. From what has the Ukrainian consumer benefited?

Today, they are protected from false information about a food product, from mislabeling and from the danger of getting an allergic reaction in a restaurant – the menu should contain special marks about the allergen. In addition, legislators have increased the level of producer’s liability. But this is not all. There are also a series of changes that will allow Ukrainians to feel safer.

The government has prepared a plan for further changes in legislation, which has described step by step an array of European standards that cover the entire food chain “from farm to table”.

The latest changes that were recently launched and those that are being prepared for implementation will be discussed further.


Why eating Ukrainian is not so scary

In addition to the plan for the future, for the successful functioning of the reform, it is necessary to control already adopted standards. If there is no control over the base law, then the percentage of compliance with the new requirements will not be high.

In addition, the moratorium on inspections of businesses, which was in force for a long time, also let off the leash of non-bona fide food market operators.

Inspections have been continued this year. They are conducted by inspectors of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, who have already developed the categorization of market operators and have established a schedule of inspections (i.e., at what frequency each market operator will be inspected).

Notification of businesses about inspections 10 days in advance was canceled. It means that a market operator will not know when they come to it. It will know only the number of inspector’s visits per year, and to what risk category it belongs.

On the other hand, any inspection should be conducted based on a checklist. It is an exclusive list of questions, meaning that an inspector is not entitled to go beyond the scope of these questions. These checklists are in public domain on the website of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection and every market operator can see if they meet the requirements.

It means that an inspector will be guided only by these issues. Each issue contains a reference to a certain paragraph of the current legislation, which envisages this standard.

In addition, a manufacturer is currently obliged to report any detected non-conformity of a product, withdraw it, remove it from the points of sale and at its own expense disseminate information to consumers about the potential hazards of the product.

If there is an incident with a food product in the European Union, before entering a supermarket you can see an appeal to return this food product, and you will be refunded for it, as well as a description of non-conformity with the standards.

Typically, this non-conformity does not involve safety; it refers to packaging, labeling and qualitative characteristics: for example, the size of the nuts in chocolate, its weight, or information about the ingredients is not as it should be.

If you have never seen anything like that in Ukrainian supermarkets, it is due to the fact that it has never been required by law. Now it will be.


Don’t worry about livestock

As already mentioned, the basic food legislation is already in place. Now you may not worry even for what cattle eat.

At first glance, it may seem that the law “On Safety and Hygiene of Feeds” adopted last year does not apply to people, but it is not true. It protects, first and foremost, consumers, as it is about controlling feeding and handling of productive animals.

It is due to these “productive animals” that, for example, the dairy and meat products appear on the shelves of supermarkets.

The above law allows preventing the detection in the finished product of residues of veterinary drugs or pharmacologically active substances that exceed the permissible limits. The control of the livestock feed equals the guarantee of the safety of sausage in terms of the content of pharmacological chemicals.

The law will enter into force in January 2020.


Novel foods

The government has bills at the stage of development that are related to the so-called “novel foods” and materials that come in contact with food (packaging, equipment, food treatment surfaces, etc.).

The term novel foods appeared in the late 90’s, when it became necessary to control the products that came to Europe with scientific and technological progress.

They started to consider products, whose long-term impact on consumer health was unknown, novel because they were not specific to a certain territory. For example, chia seeds are modern nowadays in Ukraine.

Or recently created products, for which no research has been conducted on possible adverse effects, may also be “novel”.

These include special nutritional supplements, in particular vitamins, fermented substances in food for certain groups of the population (pregnant women, children, athletes, dietary foods, etc.).

They are also products of cloned animals, when it is unknown how a human body will respond to such products.

The main requirement for novel foods is safety for the consumer and proper labeling, which will allow the consumer to understand that is the novel food product, and its effects on a human body have not been completely studied.

It will allow preventing potential cases of poisoning as well as increasing the level of nutritional awareness of consumers and guarantee them a conscious choice of the product, and honest producers, who will indicate the basic information about such a product on the packaging, will be protected from possible claims of consumers.


Packaging can also be dangerous

The bill on packaging materials will contain important safety standards for consumers regarding the safety of contact materials and surfaces, control of hygiene in kitchens of public catering establishments, and the suitability of materials for product packaging.

In particular, it will be indicated that the packaging materials should not be migrated to the food product; they should not harm the food product; their intended purpose should be labeled (including on each packaging element, which will cause doubt regarding the possibility of its eating).

According to the standards, contact materials should not change the composition, taste, smell of food products in an unacceptable way. The production of such materials should be controlled and carried out in accordance with certain envisaged standards.

This applies not only to food packages and packaging. This also applies to the equipment that comes into contact with food products, absolutely all kitchen items, equipment available at the production of foods as well as surfaces that come in contact with foods on which foods can be processed, and all other items and materials, which may come into contact with foods.

The introduction of such standards will ensure greater food safety for consumers, in particular children, through proper provision of information and control of the chemical composition of packaging materials.

Yana Dobidovska, Senior Expert of the Improvement of Food Safety Control System in Ukraine EU Project.


By Kateryna Potapenko

Source – Ekonomyhna Pravda