The EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed has grown in importance during 2010

The EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed annual report reveals that this system for quick exchange of information on risks linked to food and feed has further grown in importance. According to the report, the system is an invaluable tool especially at times of crisis.

The 2010 annual report of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) shows that this system has further grown in importance during 2010. The report notes that the number of notifications in RASFF rose to 8582 last year. This is a record number and constitutes an increase of 8% compared to 2009, when the number of notifications was slightly under 8000. This growth in notifications, taking place for the third consecutive year, is largely down to rejections of consignments at EU borders in the light of the strengthening of border controls as regards food of non-animal origin, through Regulation (EC) Nº 669/2009. There were also 576 alert notifications reporting on serious risks found in products on the market, a small increase compared to 2009.

On the other hand, almost one out of two notifications in 2010 is about a feed, food or food contact material rejected at the EU border due to a risk posed to food safety. Two-thirds of the alert notifications in 2010 related to products originating in the EU, and most of these problems were detected by controls carried out on the market. Among the risks most reported through these alerts were the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms, heavy metals, allergens and mycotoxins. When such a product is identified, the RASFF informs the third country in question, in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem, in most cases through its online RASFF Window platform. When a serious and persistent problem is detected, the Commission sends a letter to the national authorities of the third country concerned, asking them to implement corrective measures such as delisting establishments, blocking exports or intensifying controls.

The RASFF is a tool enabling quick and effective exchange of information between Member States and the Commission when risks to human health are detected in the food and feed chain. All Members of the RASFF (EU-27, Commission, EFSA, ESA, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland) have a round-the-clock service to ensure that urgent notifications are sent, received and responded to in the shortest time possible.