Poland agree to stricter meat regulations

The Czech Republic and EC will end mandatory testing

The Czech Republic will end the emergency inspection measures against imports of Polish beef March 25, if Poland fulfills its promises to both Prague and the European Commission that it will take new safety measures.

The quality of Polish meat became an issue at the end of January 2018 after Polish television station TVN24 aired an undercover video showing sick cattle being processed in a slaughterhouse some 112 km east of Warsaw. The meat was exported both to EU and non-EU countries.

The Czech Republic stepped up inspections of meat in the supply chains including meat already at restaurants and found several discrepancies concerning origin and also some meat that was contanimated.

Extraordinary veterinary measures requiring beef from Poland to be tested for salmonella in accredited laboratories before being placed on the Czech market started Feb. 20, after salmonella was found in a 700 kilogram consignment of Polish beef.

“The meeting has been satisfactory in my view,” Czech Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman (ČSSD) said after meeting March 18 with his Polish counterpart Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski and the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis in Brussels.

Toman said Poland has already confirmed progress in measures taken to ensure the safety of food exported from Poland to the Czech Republic and other members of the European Union.

Poland plans some legislative changes as well as training for veterinarians and farmers, and changes in cooperation with meat transporters.

“The Polish authorities have newly restricted access to official stamps, so now only authorized veterinarians can carry out checks on intermediate sales of cattle and strengthen animal welfare controls during transport and so on,” Czech Agriculture Ministry spokesman Vojtěch Bílý said.

EC spokeswoman for health and food safety Anca Paduraru said Poland promised to tighten sanctions and focus more on fraud.

“I think the Polish side has taken a big step,” Toman said.

Toman said that the solution now agreed to is the result of discussions among the Czech Republic, Poland and the European Commission.

“The Polish authorities have newly restricted access to official stamps, so now only authorized veterinarians can carry out checks on intermediate sales of cattle and strengthen animal welfare controls during transport and so on,” Czech Agriculture Ministry spokesman Vojtěch Bílý said.

Poland on March 25 will forward to the European Commission an updated list of the steps they are taking. “After receiving it, the Czech Republic will immediately put an end to the extraordinary measures taken,” EC spokeswoman Paduraru said.

Czech veterinarians will go to Poland to see how the measures in Poland work, Toman said.

Poland last week informed the Czech Republic that it had checked over 300 slaughterhouses.

Poland makes some 560,000 tons of beef annually, and 85 percent is exported.

Poland has long faced issues over the quality of its food exports to the Czech Republic.

In 2012 problems were found with Polish powdered eggs, pickles, and sauerkraut. In 2013 Czech inspectors claimed to have found traces of painkillers used on racehorses in horse meat. In 2013 Polish meat producers were accused of using industrial salt in processing meat. This resulted in hundreds of tons of meat being removed from markets.

The next year contaminated powdered milk was found to have been used in making wafers and other sweets.

Poland's Ministry of Agriculture claimed at the time that their food was comparable to that of other countries, and Poland was being made a scapegoat.

Czech authorities said that Polish food had a significantly higher amount of defects than comparable Czech foods that had been inspected.

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