how are food factories controlled?

In this case, the range of Fraîch’Up pizzas is the subject of an investigation after fifty cases of contamination and two possibly related deaths. A third range, Four à pierre, produced in the same factory as the Fraîch’Up, is questioned by a victims’ lawyer, without confirmation from the investigators at this stage.

Fewer surprise checks in factories

In France as in Europe, it is the agri-food companies that have “the obligation to carry out self-checks to ensure that they only market products that are not dangerous to health”, explained Karine Jacquemart, general manager of the NGO Foodwatch.

“Industrialists, as soon as they spot the slightest suspicion, must inform the authorities, but it happened the other way around and that is what should alert us today”, abounds Ingrid Kragl, of Foodwatch. “It’s complicated to put consumer safety on the shoulders of a company that will be asked to seek maximum profit”, underlines Roland Girerd, general secretary of the Solidaires CCRF & SCL union, especially since the means administrations supposed to control these self-checks are dwindling.

Fraud prevention inspectors (DGCCRF) can carry out checks without notifying the company in advance. But their workforce fell by nearly 30% between 2007 and 2020, from 3,656 to 2,673 agents. Unannounced checks remain possible, but “it takes time, staff, resources”, continues Roland Girerd, while the alerts received by the DGCCRF are increasing, from 1,169 in 2016 to 1,900 in 2020.

European alert system

More generally, the personnel carrying out health checks on food are attached to the Ministry of Agriculture (DGAL), the Ministry of the Economy (DGCCRF) and the Ministry of Health. The DGCCRF “acts on a report”, explained a spokesperson. “When someone shows symptoms and demonstrates that there is a possible infection, the epidemiological authorities carry out analyzes tracing the diet of the previous days”.

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