Food safety: a worrying reform

In the midst of the Kinder and Ferrero scandal, the State wants to entrust food control to the Ministry of Agriculture from 2023. Stunned at the DGCCRF.

Update 13 may 2022

“Discussions are continuing”, according to the government

Following our request, the Ministry of Agriculture sent us the government’s response: the email sent to the agents of the Ministry of the Economy would only be a ” waypoint “because the reform “not yet finalized” and “discussions are continuing between the various departments involved”.

Can the creation of a single policy, entrusted to the Ministry of Agriculture, still be called into question? Not so sure… Especially since the project has been on the table for several years now. “Since 2018, we have been working on setting up a single food safety policy that will simplify public action and strengthen, on the one hand, the safety of our food (provided by the Ministry of agriculture – veterinary services) and, on the other hand, the fight against economic fraud (carried out by the Ministry of the Economy – DGCCRF). »

The news fell on May 11 at 7 p.m.: “The food safety checks of the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention [DGCCRF]will be abandoned at the Ministry of Agriculture”alarmed the national union Solidaires Finances publiques in a communicated.

Same reaction from the other administration union, CFDT CCRF & Laboratoires, on Twitter:

Twitter @cfdtccrfscl

The surprise is total, because “there were no discussions with elected officials or with trade unions”deplores Roland Girerd, co-secretary general of Solidaires CCRF & SCL.

Beyond the impact on DGCCRF staff, “in a state of bewilderment” Following this announcement, the creation of this “single policy” raises many questions about consumer protection.

READ ALSO >>> Buitoni: new ranges of contaminated pizzas?

When health security and finances go hand in hand

In concrete terms, the DGCCRF will continue to carry out checks on questions of loyalty and the fight against fraud, while “the Directorate General for Food (DGAL) would recover on 1er January 2023 all controls related to food safety”the statement said.

This means that a “the same establishment may be inspected for fairness by the DGCCRF and for hygiene by the DGAL… since the DGCCRF will no longer be able to carry out both inspections at the same time”. An unjustified decision, in the eyes of Roland Girerd: “It will break something that works, he specifies. If there was a link with Bercy, it is because the engine of failures, in terms of food safety, are economic issues. »

In the field, this could “further reduce the presence of the DGCCRF”, according to the press release, while union representatives have been denouncing for several years a drop in resources and staff. On April 5, Solidaires CCRF & SCL recalled that the administration had lost nearly 1,000 agents in 13 years.

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“Food will depend on the private sector”

Currently, the DGCCRF has about 1,800 investigators, half of whom work on food. How many could go to the Ministry of Agriculture? “There would be a workforce of 60 people transferred”, replies Roland Girerd. Will the DGAL see its workforce increase? Will it have more resources than the DGCCRF to carry out checks? These questions remain unanswered.

No more information about analytics, “exerted until then by the Joint Service of Bercy Laboratories, now seriously threatened”warns the press release. “The risk is that it will be subcontracted, with all that that implies, fears Roland Girerd. The food will depend on the private sector, and it is done on the sly, outside of any democratic debate. »

Outsourced hygiene checks?

Food hygiene controls, carried out in restaurants, delicatessens, butchers and bakeries, could also be entrusted to private control bodies.

“Paid checks, carried out by for-profit companies, employing sometimes precarious staff, and no longer by independent staff”takes offense Solidaires Finances publiques in its press release.

“Bruno Le Maire pleases the food industry”

Laboratories and private control bodies would not be the only ones to take advantage of the situation, according to the union, which also points to the agri-food lobby: “For his last day as Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire is pleasing the agri-food industry, while the emotion of the Buitoni and Kinder scandals has not subsided. »

We learn this evening that the food safety controls of the @DGCCRF are abandoned at the ministry @Agri_Gouv: for its last day @BrunoLeMaire pleases the agri-food industry

Twitter @Solidairesccrf

The schedule is surprising, as these two cases have highlighted shortcomings on the part of the two major manufacturers involved, Nestlé and Ferrero.

READ ALSO >>> The Kinder chocolate affair

Several gray areas

Whenever there is a scandal, we never hear the public authorities and politicians attacking the agri-food industry, adds Roland Girerd. Food safety is not prioritized over economic interests. »

Neither the Directorate for the Repression of Fraud nor the Ministry of Agriculture have, for the time being, responded to our requests. The latter published, on May 9, 2022, its updated national multi-annual official control plan 2021-2025, which mentions absolutely nowhere this reform, however imminent. Why ? Why not communicate publicly about this? Several gray areas persist in this sudden decision.

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