Hygiene in food is often poor



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The Federal Office uncovers many hygiene deficiencies in food

Deficiencies in hygiene are alarmingly widespread both in the food and beverage industry and in the catering trade. For example, the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) demonstrated deficiencies in controls in every fourth company visited last year.

The most common cause of the infringements complained of were disregard of the hygiene regulations. According to the President of the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, around 75 percent of the complaints were due to "errors in industrial hygiene and deficiencies in hygiene management". Helmut Tschiersky-Schöneburg, yesterday in Berlin.

Alcoholics and meat products are the most frequently criticized BVL inspectors carried out a total of around 921,000 inspections in approximately 538,000 plants in 2010. 408,000 samples from food businesses and the catering trade were examined, whereby 13 percent of the samples were objectionable due to significant defects, according to the latest BVL announcement. Errors in the labeling were cause for complaint in around half of the samples sent in. In a fifth, the inspectors found "microbiological contamination", the goods were contaminated with germs or had already spoiled. The most worrying situation was in the controlled restaurants without full kitchens (traditional pubs) where 27.1 percent of the establishments had significant deficiencies, according to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety. According to Dr. Helmut Tschiersky-Schöneburg alcoholic beverages - with the exception of wines - the most common cause of complaint. 19 percent of the alcoholics samples were criticized. Close behind in terms of the complaints were the meat products, of which 18.9 percent of the samples tested did not meet the requirements of the inspectors. Although the number of complaints fell slightly overall in 2010, the hygiene deficiencies are still far too often a cause for complaint, especially since the violations can pose serious health risks for consumers, according to the experts.

Improvement of the technical equipment of the food inspectors is required According to the BVL President Dr. Helmut Tschiersky-Schöneburg still has a lot to do on a technical level. Tschiersky-Schöneburg criticized that the food inspectors are still technically poorly equipped to this day and have no digital recording system in which the companies are also involved. According to the expert, this should be introduced as a bypass in order to be able to react as quickly as possible even in crisis situations. The importance of quick action can be seen, for example, from the dioxin findings at the beginning of the year and the EHEC epidemic. After the appearance of the EHEC symptoms, the inspectors had to laboriously trace the supply chains for numerous people in order to find out who was responsible and to protect the population from the health risks, explained the BVL President. With a digital system in which companies are also involved, this would have been much easier, emphasized Dr. Helmut Tschiersky-Schöneburg.

Hygiene traffic light should make control results transparent In order to make the hygiene situation at the food manufacturers and in the catering trade also transparent for the consumers, the experts also demand a corresponding public identification of the companies. In this way, customers could clearly understand which companies are working properly and which are not, according to consumer advocates. In order to get a bit closer to the ambitious goal, the consumer ministerial conference had already agreed in the middle of the year to introduce a "hygiene traffic light", which should indicate on a three-stage scale how the hygiene situation in the companies is. However, some ministers of agriculture have spoken out against such a regulation because they fear significant economic disadvantages for numerous companies. Since the agreement, no further steps have been taken to introduce the hygiene traffic light. For years, consumer protection organizations such as Foodwatch have been calling for the hygiene situation in companies to be identified in the form of a hygiene barometer, which experts believe would work both as a traffic light and as a smiley system. Because only when the results of the food inspectors "are also published, directly at the entrance to restaurants, bakeries and supermarkets, do consumers have a choice between good and bad companies," emphasized Foodwatch spokesman Martin Rücker.

Communicating the results of the food inspections openly According to the consumer advocates, the arguments of the ministers of agriculture against the introduction of a hygiene traffic light cannot apply because those who mess with hygiene also have to reckon with financial disadvantages and a drop in sales. The fact that significant deficiencies were found in the controls in every fourth pub speaks for itself in the opinion of the consumer advocates and is the best argument to finally implement the hygiene traffic light. According to the latest BVL communication, the consumer protection ministries of the federal states are also in favor of the control results being published in this way. The Deputy Chairman of the State Working Group on Consumer Protection from the Brandenburg Ministry of Consumer Protection, Bernhard Remde, explained that positive effects can be expected from such a publication. Even today, the state enforcement authorities are already paying "great attention" to hygiene deficiencies, particularly with regard to "more frequent monitoring" of companies with complaints "in the context of risk orientation and consistent enforcement of regulatory measures," explained Remde. However, in the interests of consumers, the results must also be communicated, according to the expert. (fp)

Image: Cornelia Menichelli / pixelio.de

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