The European Union has stipulated that all foods sold in the European market be safe for consumption. Imported food products are among these foods. The major issues an exporter to EU needs to consider are contamination of products, labeling, food contact materials and their composition. Non-compliance of the food import has led to the EU demanding analytical test reports or health certificates to ascertain the safety of the foods brought into Europe. The port health authorities at the point of destinations in the importing country do the sampling and analysis of imported foods. Their role is to inspect aircraft and ships for infectious disease control and food safety.
Pistachios from Turkey
Pistachios are nuts from Turkey that are popular as snacks and also used in products such as sausage as an ingredient. Turkey is currently in the top 10 list of exporting pistachios globally and whose export value has increased over the years because of their distinctive aroma and taste when compared to those from areas such as USA and Iran. Italy is the largest importer of the pistachios from Turkey with Israel and Germany among the other markets.
Pistachios are some of the foods that present some risk to public health. The food is considered as food not of animal origin and is categorized among the foods with the likelihood of contamination. These nuts have been found to have excess levels of total aflatoxin and aflatoxin B1 through contamination (Xiong & Sumner, 2013). Aflatoxins occur due to high humidity levels and temperatures. Aflatoxin B1 is genotoxic and has been found to cause liver cancer even at extremely low levels. Pistachios with aflatoxins are the ones that have been poorly harvested or processed that occur due to mold contamination in the storage areas, soil, and pests. The nuts usually split open before harvest and early splits may make the nuts be exposed to aflatoxin contamination or pest infestation thus making them unsafe for consumption. Late harvesting has also led to the infestation of pistachios by the navel orange worm and bird damage and cracking which has been associated with high levels of aflatoxins.
The EU has put up some regulations regarding the presence of aflatoxins in the imported foods. The type of products imported to the EU region needs to be accompanied with the outcome of the analysis and sampling done by competent authorities in the origin country to determine the levels of aflatoxins in the products. The consignments need to be accompanied by a health certificate that needs to be signed, completed and verified by an authorized representative of the origin country. The health certificate is valid from e date of issue for four months and needs to be drawn up in the official language.
Every consignment of food products needs to have an identification code, which is similar to the identification code of the sampling and analysis results. There should be notification of the estimated time and date of the food arrival to the authorities and the nature of the package. There is an official laboratory at the designated points of import used for aflatoxin analysis to ensure samples are analyzed within short periods of time and shorten the lead times of food delivery into Europe. Any products found with aflatoxins are destroyed after that and the country of origin warned of its poor products.
Dried apricots from Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a producer of fresh fruits, and one of its products is dried apricots. It is among the top five producers of the fruit globally favored by the continental climate with hot summers in Central Asia. Many farmers have concentrated more on fruit production and done little during harvesting periods. Therefore, they face post-harvest losses due to improper harvesting such as damage, poor hygiene, poor handling in packaging and insufficient storage during harvesting. The most affected are the small growers because they do not have packaging centers that accommodate large quantities of fruits and allow them to pack the fruits for the ready markets. Little attention during harvesting to the fruits has caused bruising and damaging of the products. Little focus on the product temperatures has also brought issues in the storage, packaging, and distribution of the fruits.
It is, however, unfortunate that dried apricots have at times being found with a high content of sulfites. Sulfur dioxide is one of the components of sulfites that have been found in the dried apricots (Coskun et al., 2013). It has serious health implications for consumers especially for people with asthma who are susceptible to life-threatening allergy, breathing problems and in some cases, death occurs. Allergies contracted include facial swelling, hives or rash when one consumes the dried apricots. It has caused wheezing and breathing difficulties for asthmatic people that have led to many using inhalers after eating the fruit or seeking medical attention in serious cases.
The European Union through its Commission amended the Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 following high contents of aflatoxins and sulfites in different fruits from various countries globally. It persisted that there should be increased degree of official controls on the import of the food and feed of non-animal origin. According to the regulation, dried apricots from Uzbekistan were to be controlled in by half of a number of imports (50%) of the fruit into the European Union for sulfites analysis and checks. The countries had failed to adhere to the previous regulation on the imports which forced the EU to come up with a stricter inspection list of the non-compliant import foods. The exporters require informing the consumers of sulfites presence and the level which should not exceed 10mg/kg in the dried apricots by listing it among the ingredients of the product according to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011.
The dried apricots should be free from living pests, intact and not damaged by pests. The sulphured dried apricots moisture content should not exceed 25% m/m while the unsulphured moisture content should not be more than 20% m/m. The sampling analysis of the dried apricots is 10 kg for 15 or more tons of the fruit. The package is rejected once the laboratory sample exceeds the maximum limit. The documents required to carry out the exportation process from Uzbekistan to Europe include the certificate of origin, health certificate, phytosanitary certificate, the movement certificates and the suppliers declaration.
Dried beans from Nigeria
Nigeria has been one of the exporters of dried beans to Europe. The country has however faced a ban on the importation of dried beans by the European Union for over the next three years because the cereals have a high level of pesticide which is harmful to human health. Dichlorvos is the main pesticide found in the dried beans from Nigeria which has indicated high residue levels of pesticides in the seeds. It is hard to eliminate the problem within a short time thus making the EU subject Nigeria to a three-year ban to give them enough time to implement the required risk-management measures as well as come up with the proper guarantees. Nigeria has not made enough efforts by June 2016 to ensure the dried beans are safe for consumption and also make it easy for EU to lift the ban imposed on the country.
The dried beans were found to contain 0.03-4.6mg/kg of the pesticide while EU only allows it to be 0.01 mg/kg. The high levels of dichlorvos in the dried beans is highly toxic to people or animals, and if consumed, it can cause sweating, dizziness, abdominal cramping, convulsion, diarrhoea, loss of consciousness and vomiting. The health authorities have named it among suspected endocrine system disruptors and as a human carcinogen. There are also other health effects such as hypersensitivity, allergies, asthma, reproduction issues and hormone disruption that have been brought up by the pesticide. It is, therefore, clear that dichlorvos is a harmful pesticide and it may bring serious health implication to the European community if the Nigerians are allowed to continue supplying the beans without any measures being taken. Despite Nigeria facing harsh economic times due to the ban, human health should be put first hence EUs decision is valid for the sake of human health (Ogah, Coker & Adepoju-Bello, 2016).
Dried beans are among cereals. The EU has put up measures to ensure there is high-quality sampling and analysis done on each type of cereals that are to be imported in the region. The sampling is done by an authorized person who is member state designated. Large lots of products are usually divided into sub lots to ease the sampling process and make it exhaustive. The samples are placed in inert and clean containers for maximum protection from contamination and damage. The samples are also well sealed to ensure no one tampers with them. The cereals sampling for dried beans of over 1500 tonnes are first divided into sublots of 500 tons each then placed in 100 incremental samples. The average sample weight of the process amounts to approximately 10 kg in the end. Packages below 50 tons are however split into incremental samples without subdividing them into sublots.
Among the import requirements required by the EU are bill of lading, export contract, commercial invoice and packing list. The exporter also needs to adhere to health and sanitary requirements and the labeling requirements which will enable the consumers to know the composition of the product the person is consuming.
Peeled processed shrimps from China
Peeled processed shrimps mostly are acquired from Thailand in China because it is one of the biggest shrimp providers in the world. Companies such as Gig Peeling Factory are some of the largest exporters of peeled shrimp from China. Samut Sakhon is the main port used to carry out most processes regarding the peeled shrimps. Human trafficking is one of the factors that have enabled Thailand to be a global provider of peeled shrimp. The workers of the company are under age children, and most are migrants whom the companies have taken advantage of to lower the cost of labor thus lower production costs. It is unfortunate that the workers end up getting little or no pay from the companies which is a violation of their labor rights. Complicity and corruption among authorities and police have encouraged the act because the company directors or owners go unpunished.
Any people who try to escape from the companies are arrested back and locked in rooms away from others. The employees are denied their human rights where employees are paid half the amount promised during employment and can be cut their wages without any explanation. The employees also work from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m. that surpasses the required working hours of an individual. Health conditions have not made the companies exempt sick people from the forced labor. Women who have had miscarriages, sick children or pregnant women have been subjected to the same torture as the other employees despite their challenges. The employees have been treated as slaves and brutally beaten when they are late for work or fail to make huge targets at work (Ramasoot & Krajangwong, 2016). Lack of knowledge and finance has however encouraged people to seek employment in the shrimp processing companies still. Most people in Thailand do not realize that what they are offered is illegal and the lack of finances at home has made them run to the companies to enable them to sustain their livelihoods and families.
The European Union has stipulated that any exporter of products to the region needs to stop any exploitation of employees in their companies or countries. The companies should not treat employees poorly or use forced labor on them. The organization has said that it will monitor and ban all imports that come from companies practicing forced labor companies children needs to be restricted from the job market and they should be attending school to be better workers in the future rather than working at tender ages. The countries importing to EU need to provide access to compensation, prevent the use of forced labor and improve the protection of victims. There should be overtime compensation, offering safe and healthy working conditions and avoiding discrimination of age and gender. It is clear that China has not managed to meet the EU regulation on forced labor that has led to the banning of some of the exports from the region such as processed peeled shrimps into Europe. China has however still insisted that its legislation knows the standard of eliminating forms of compulsory and forced labor despite not following the rule.
Coskun, A. L., Turkyilmaz, M., Aksu, O. T., Koc, B. E., Yemis, O., & Ozkan, M. (2013). Effects of various sulphuring methods and storage temperatures on the physical and chemical quality of dried apricots. Food chemistry, 141(4), 3670-3680.
Ogah, C. O., Coker, H. B., & Adepoju-Bello, A. A. (2016). Organophosphate and carbamate pesticide residues in beans from markets in Lagos State, Nigeria. Journal of Innovative Research in Engineering and Sciences, 2(1).
Ramasoot, S., & Krajangwong, R. (2016). The Effect on Thai Frozen Shrimp Industry after AEC Implementation. Journal submission manual-ASEAN Journal of Management & Innovation, 3(1), 119-127.
Xiong, B., & Sumner, D. (2013). Food Import and Food Safety in Europe: The Role of Aflatoxins in Pistachios. In 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, DC (No. 150449). Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.