Audit finds issues with Norway’s import control system not resolved

Audit finds issues with Norway’s import control system not resolved

by Sue Jones
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Norway must improve its import control system for products of animal origin, according to a report from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The recommendations by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) follow an updated country profile in July 2020, assessing Norway’s performance in food and veterinary areas. This profile is based on a general review audit by ESA in the country in February 2020.

In this audit, ESA assessed how Norway has followed up on 38 open recommendations out of 54 made in visits between October 2016 and December 2018.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority monitors compliance with European Economic Area (EEA) rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Country profiles have information on how control systems for food and feed safety, animal health and welfare are organized. To verify actions taken to address recommendations issued in sector-specific audits, ESA conducts a general review audit.

Veterinary checks on animal products
Although Norway has made good progress to address most points, it has not yet taken appropriate measures to address recommendations made on the import control system following a visit in October 2017 on the use of TRACES in import and trade, according to ESA.

TRACES NT is the European Commission’s online platform for sanitary and phytosanitary certification needed to import animals, animal products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plants into the EU. More than 40,000 users from 85 countries employ it.

ESA required improvements to ensure that all animal products from third countries undergo veterinary checks at the Norwegian border. A case has now been opened to investigate further.

One of the recommendations that ESA judged appropriate measures were not taken in a timely manner concerned authorities ensuring that no consignments in transit from a non-EEA country are introduced into the area without undergoing the necessary veterinary checks.

The other was about Norway ensuring customs authorities allow the intended customs-approved treatment or use of the consignments only in accordance with regulation.

Norway response
During the general review audit Mattilsynet (Norwegian Food Safety Authority) informed the ESA that outstanding issues will be completed by development of IT solutions within the customs digitalization program, in which the TREFF-project is a central part. Deadline for full implementation is 2024.

The ESA may send a letter of formal notice to a country, indicating it considers them to be in breach of their obligations. If the issues are not resolved, the ESA may deliver a reasoned opinion, requiring them to comply with the EEA rules in question. If the country still does not comply, the ESA can refer the matter to the EFTA Court.

In November 2019 the ESA carried out a check on hygiene in milk and meat, and their products. The final report was published in May 2020. An audit on ready to eat food is planned for fall this year and one on veterinary medicinal products and residues has been postponed until 2021.

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