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Seafood imports to Norway from non-EU countries mostly safe

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The majority of seafood products imported into Norway were compliant with food safety rules, according to a new report.

The report summarizes the monitoring program for seafood imported to Norway from countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area in 2020.

Samples were collected at Norwegian border inspection posts and the Institute of Marine Research did the analytical work on behalf of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet).

In total, 91 samples were examined for microorganisms and undesirable chemical substances. The coronavirus pandemic led to a decrease of seafood imports in 2020 and this was reflected by a reduced number of samples taken compared to 129 in 2019, according to the report.

Testing findings
In 2020, eight samples contained undesirable microorganisms or had trace elements or persistent organic pollutants (POPs) exceeding respective maximum levels.

Sampling considered import volumes, results from previous monitoring, geographical origin of samples, and information in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).

Listeria monocytogenes was detected qualitatively in four of 57 samples, with quantitative measurements finding all of them were below 10 colony forming units per gram. They were two samples of Pangasius fillets from Vietnam, one Rainbow trout fillet from Peru, and one imitation shrimp balls made of toothfish from Thailand.

All tests for Salmonella, Vibrio, norovirus and hepatitis A were negative while two samples for E. coli were below the detection limit.

Four samples of Yellowfin tuna were analyzed for added carbon monoxide and judged compliant. Twenty samples were selected for histamine analysis and all measured values were below the maximum level.

A sample of dried anchovy from Vietnam and squid muscle imported from New Zealand exceeded the maximum level for cadmium. One sample from Uruguay was above the limit for mercury.

POPs were measured in 30 seafood samples and only one was identified as non-compliant because of PCDD/Fs and DLP levels.

Norway animal audit
Meanwhile, an audit of official controls in Norway for live animals and animal products has found some shortcomings in the system.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority remote audit took place from Feb. 22 to March 5. It focused on the effectiveness of checks on residues of veterinary medicinal products, pesticides and contaminants in live animals and animal products.

Recommendations include improving the sampling strategy for detecting residues and ensuring all sampling is unexpected. Norway submitted a plan of corrective actions to address the suggestions.

“The combination of announcing official control visits in advance, not always sampling EURL recommended matrices most likely to detect certain substances for the longest period post treatment and sampling at the slaughterhouse rather than on farm (when the sampling is not routine such that herd owners would not be expecting the sampling event) collectively reduce the chances of detecting non-compliances,” found the report.

The audit team found receipt of samples at the laboratories is sometimes delayed so analysis results are not delivered quickly. This would delay follow-up actions if a non-compliance is detected.

Follow-up to non-compliant test results generally involves written correspondence between officials and herd owners with no onsite visits or repeat sampling considered necessary. Non-compliant results are not considered as a risk factor in planning subsequent residue monitoring at department level to help target sampling.

Norway plans to amend instructions so it becomes clear sampling must be carried out unannounced. When notification is necessary for practical reasons it should never indicate samples will be taken. Other changes will ensure residue sampling of emergency slaughter animals and amended matrices in the sampling plan to detect certain substances for the longest period post treatment.

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