Inspection of online food sales on the rise in the Czech Republic during the pandemic

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The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (SZPI) has revealed how inspectors have had to focus more on online sales due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The agency has performed more than 1,000 inspections focused on online sales of 616 businesses in 806 establishments, according to its annual report. This is due to the increased turnover of online food stores and the sale of food products through social networks and online marketplaces.

In 2020, officers carried out 56,781 inspections at food businesses, public catering establishments, customs warehouses and online shops. A total of 2,874 lots of non-compliant feed and other products were found.

Starch and starch-based products were the main category involved, followed by chocolate and confectionery, dehydrated products, liquid flavorings, salad dressings, salt and mustard, additives and flavorings, and flavorings. soft drink.

Compliance with microbiological criteria was verified for 2,603 ​​samples of food, meals, ice, bottled water and swabs of equipment and objects. On-site inspections revealed 189 lots unfit for human consumption and 117 non-compliant samples were detected during laboratory tests. The largest number of samples deemed unsafe were meat products, dairy products and fresh vegetables.

Non-compliant highlights
Salmonella was found in five batches of semi-finished prepared meat foods, one batch of fresh chicken, and one batch of confectionery products. Listeria monocytogenes was found in a batch of deli salad. Shigatoxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was detected in two batches of steak tartare from the market and a cold dish from a restaurant. Campylobacter was found in a hot pizza dish. A batch of frozen raspberries was contaminated with norovirus.

A total of 855 samples were taken to determine the level of pesticides. Amounts above the limits were found in 19 samples of green teas, mandarins, peppers and parsley. Two samples of pistachios and peanuts were above the limit for the sum of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2.

The first reports of ethylene oxide in sesame seeds from India were recorded in RASFF with analyzed values ​​exceeding the limit by more than 100, and sometimes even 400 times.

During a targeted inspection, 10 lots of sesame seeds were taken, nine of which came from India and one from Mozambique. Six lots from India were unsatisfactory and laboratory analysis revealed ethylene oxide in the samples. When results above the limits were discovered, operators had to analyze all other lots of sesame seeds received within the next two months.

Almost 2,500 administrative proceedings have been initiated against companies and fines totaling nearly 96.6 million Czech crowns (4.6 million dollars) have been imposed. A reprimand was pronounced in 253 cases.

Online checks
An inspection of online sales of meat products collected 14 samples from nine outlets. Gaps found included missing information regarding storage conditions or the incorrect country of origin of the food.

More checks were carried out on the sale of food via the internet, in particular for food which claimed to have positive effects regarding the treatment of COVID-19.

In an EU-wide operation on food claims regarding the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 infection, Czech inspectors found 87 violations of the rules. This was based on notifications or searches from non-compliant websites. The majority of illegal offers and advertisements were for dietary supplements.

The inability of restaurant operators to properly inform consumers about allergens was identified during 108 inspections. The inspectors carried out 19 audits of food companies out of the 85 planned.

A total of 2,767 notifications were disseminated through the RASFF National Contact Point: 279 original notifications concerning the Czech Republic and 2,488 additional information. The Czech Republic sent 70 original notifications.

A total of 195 notifications and 357 requests, notifications of information and related responses were distributed through the administrative assistance and cooperation online tool in 2020. Of the notifications, 49 cases were sent from the Czech Republic and 146 cases have been received from other Member States.

“Despite the unforeseeable events and difficult working conditions in 2020, we can say that the results of our work have not been fundamentally affected negatively. However, priorities, inspection techniques and approaches have changed, and this fact is evidenced by the data in the 2020 Annual Report, ”said Martin Klanica, Managing Director of SZPI.

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