Programs / Current Programs & Activities / European IntegrationFood Safety

Advocating for Improved Food Safety

 

For over a decade, Europe Foundation has been amplifying civil society’s voice in harmonizing Georgian food safety and consumer protection legislation and practice with European standards. Toward this end, EPF has contributed to developing the capacities of civil society organizations (CSOs) to undertake monitoring and advocacy actions for improved food safety and consumer protection in Georgia. EPF has also fostered tripartite policy dialogue in this area and promoted public awareness of food safety and consumer rights issues. Since 2013, EPF’s evidence-based advocacy has been supported by annual assessment of the Government’s reform efforts, which provide broad overview of the activities implemented in the food safety field, identify obstacles hindering the reform implementation, and outline recommendations for overcoming the challenges.

CSO Statement on Reforming the Food Market Regulatory Framework

The government of Georgia has presented a draft law on changes and amendments to the Food/Feed Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection Code to the Parliament of Georgia. Europe Foundation and its partner civil society organizations developed recommendations related to the proposed changes, which can be accessed in Georgian. CSO comments  (in Georgian only) Draft changes with comments  (in Georgian only)


 

CSO Statement on Reforming the Food Market Regulatory Framework

Europe Foundation and its partner civil society organizations express their concern about the slow pace of reforms in the food safety field and appeal to the Georgian authorities to accelerate the reform process in order to improve, the protection of consumer rights. Please refer to the full text of the statement here (in Georgian)


 

Recommendations on the Draft Law on Changes and Amendments to the Food/Feed Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection Code

The Government of Georgia is currently reviewing a draft law on changes and amendments to the Food/Feed Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection Code. Europe Foundation and its partner civil society organizations developed recommendations related to the proposed changes, which can be accessed in Georgian. CSO comments as of February, 2014 (in Georgian only) Draft changes with comments as of February, 2014 (in Georgian only)


 

Additional Information regarding Food Market Control Results

On October 18, 2013, Europe Foundation (EPF) provided information about the results of the food market control carried out by the National Food Agency (NFA) (See the link ). As mentioned in the October statement issued by EPF, the Foundation continued to communicate with the NFA to clarify the following: • What are the reasons behind selective publication of information about the revealed violations? • Why did the NFA not take active steps to inform the public about higher than allowable traces of arsenic in Sairme drinking water and only gave a warning to the Sairme Mineral Waters, LLC? The National Food Agency provided EPF detailed explanation about the above-mentioned issues, which can be seen in the attached documents. Specifically, the NFA noted that the design and technical parameters of the Agency’s website make it impossible to deliver information contained in large-sized files. On the question about Sairme drinking water, the Agency noted that the inspections of the enterprise did not reveal important violations and, therefore, did not require the NFA to inform the public about the possible hazards from consuming this product. The NFA recommendations to the Sairme Mineral Waters, LLC. only concerned the so called non-critical issues and were successfully addressed by the enterprise. Much like the National Food Agency, EPF hopes that the renewed version of the NFA website will be more informative and that the Agency will proactively publish the information it possesses.


 

EPF Continues its Efforts to Foster European Integration through Supporting Civic Engagement

On October 1, 2013, Europe Foundation (EPF) started to implement a project Transparent Convergence to EU Policies in Sanitary Issues: the Case of Georgia and Moldova. The project is supported by European Union and implemented in partnership with East Eurasia Foundation Moldova (EEF) and the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG). During the next 30 months, EPF and its partners will contribute to improved socio-economic conditions for the citizens of Georgia and Moldova through enhancing stakeholder understanding of and adherence to sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) standards and promoting dialogue between non-state actors and public authorities for improved food safety legislation and practice in both countries. The overall cost of the project is EUR 1,056,976. Press release


 

Food Market Control Results

Europe Foundation (EPF) requested from the National Food Agency (NFA) of Georgia results of the food market control carried out by the NFA in 2013, namely, lists of food products that did not comply with food safety requirements and of enterprises that were completely, or partially suspended, due to noncompliance with food safety requirements (or where “critical noncompliance” was revealed). In addition, EPF requested information about Georgian food products to be exported to EU countries and found unsafe by the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). According to the information provided by the NFA, 95 tested food samples did not comply with food safety requirements. Majority of violations were revealed in drinking water, ready-made dishes, culinary products, and food of animal origin. Critical noncompliance was revealed in 10 enterprises, among which were cafes and other public eateries, shops, agrarian markets, and enterprises producing food of animal origin. As for the RASFF notifications, by August 12, 2013 only one notification concerning a Georgian product was received, according to which higher than allowed amounts of arsenic were found in the mineral water produced by Sairme Mineral Waters, LLC. It is noteworthy that the National Food Agency periodically publishes information, though selectively, about the revealed violations. Given the above-mentioned and high public interest in food safety, EPF decided to disseminate the information gained from the NFA (Please see the attached documents). EPF continues to communicate with the National Food Agency to clarify the following: • What are the reasons behind selective publication of information about the revealed violations? • Why did the NFA not take active steps to inform the public about higher than allowable traces of arsenic in Sairme drinking water and only gave a warning to the Sairme Mineral Waters, LLC. ? For improved awareness of stakeholders and the public, EPF will continue to publish public information provided by the NFA.


 

Parliament Voting Results on Food Safety Legislation

Following the Freedom of Information request to the Parliament of Georgia, Europe Foundation received voting records  of individual MPs on the Draft Law on Changes and Amendments to the Code on Food/Feed Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection. After reviewing the voting records (the voting took place on July 12, 2013), the Foundation issued a statement urging executive and legislative branches of government to improve information exchange and cooperation on matters that are vital to Georgia’s EU integration efforts.


 

CSO Comments on the 2014-2017 Action Plan of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia

 

EPF Statement regarding Changes in Georgian Food Safety Legislation (July 17, 2013)

Europe Foundation (EPF) is glad to note that the Parliament of Georgia did not adopt the draft law on the “Changes in the Code on Food/Feed Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection,” aimed at disposing the requirement, according to which only slaughterhouses had the right to process the meat intended for sale. A statement against this draft law was issued by EPF, together with other civil society organizations, on June 15, 2013. The draft law was negatively assessed by both the Parliament’s Agrarian Issues Committee and the Government of Georgia (GoG). It was also negatively assessed by the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia in the context of Georgia’s European integration. These negative assessments notwithstanding, the draft law was supported by 52 Parliamentarians, with only 23 Members of the Parliament (MPs) voting against the changes. The Parliament was only 2 votes short of the needed 54 votes to adopt the legislation. The results of the Parliamentary vote demonstrate that both the GoG and the Agrarian Issues Committee have to do a better job in informing the MPs about the current state of affairs in the food safety field and the connection between the ongoing food safety reforms and Georgia’s quest to European integration. EPF is ready to continue cooperation with relevant CSOs and public authorities in pushing forward the food safety reform agenda. In addition, EPF will undertake and support efforts that promote wide public discussion of food safety reform issues, involving field experts, business community, and other interested stakeholders.


 

Position of the European Union on Draft Changes to the Legislation on Food Safety Regulation

On June 15, 2013, Europe Foundation (EPF) initiated a statement of civil society organizations on draft changes to the legislation on food safety regulation, which is currently discussed at the Parliament of Georgia. The legislative initiative aims at modifying the current regulation by getting rid of the requirement of having only slaughterhouses (which are under veterinary supervision) to process meat intended for sale. The statement was joined by 38 civil society organizations. EPF also requested an official position about the discussed changes from the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, inquiring specifically about the congruence of changes with the existing European standards and providing EU Delegation’s view about how the proposed changes, if adopted, could impact Georgia’s ongoing EU integration process, including the conclusion of the Agreement on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. On July 8, 2013, the EU Delegation to Georgia officially responded to EPF, stating that the concerned changes would be against the existing EU regulations in this field and could undermine the ongoing legal approximation process toward EU.


 

CSO Statement on Changes in Georgian Food Safety Legislation

On June 15, 2013 Georgian civil society organizations made a joint statement regarding changes in Georgian Food Safety Legislation. The legislative initiative is aiming at modifying the current regulation of the slaughter of animals in slaughterhouses, under veterinary supervision, whose meat is destined for consumption. Please see the full text of the announcement attached.

 

To enhance adherence to food safety standards among food business operators in Georgia and to encourage convergence to European policies in this area, Europe Foundation instituted  an annual  Best Food Enterprise of the Year Award to recognize food operators that best follow sanitary and phytosanitary standardization and labeling requirements. The winners of the award are identified through a competition, with participants selected on the basis of an open call for applications. As part of the agreements with the participating businesses, EPF’s food safety experts perform three unannounced spot-checks at each competing enterprise and test samples of their products in accredited laboratories. Both the inspection reports and lab results are confidential and can be accessed only by the respective food operators. All participating food operators receive the inspection and lab test results free of charge, which serves as an additional incentive for food operators to participate in the competition and ensures that every participant is able to improve their compliance with SPS standards.  The decision about the winners is made by EPF based on the inspection and lab testing results.

Since the institution of the Award in 2014, interest toward the competition has been increasing steadily, demonstrated by the growing number of participants. In total, 25 enterprises have been participating in the competition till today. In 2014, Radisson Blue Iveria Hotel’s restaurant received Best Food Enterprise of the Year award.  In 2015, the winner was Marshé LLC and in 2016, it was Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking, represented by Velistikhe Primary Production and Patardzeuli Winery.  Ozurgeti Tea Packaging Factory of Geoplant, Ltd. was named as the Best Food Enterprise of 2017.

To enhance the stakeholder understanding of the SPS issues, EPF specifically targeted its Youth Integration Program beneficiaries (members of Youth Bank committees formed by youth aged 16-21) and awarded small grants to youth-led initiatives groups to focus on:

  • Informing citizens about their food safety related consumer rights and their protection mechanisms,
  • Informing food operators about the legal requirements for businesses being introduced through the new and planned SPS regulations, and
  • Monitoring local food markets to address revealed violations.

Prior to the grant competition, the young people completed seminars on food safety issues and methods of civil activism.

The projects also developed, distributed, and exhibited leaflets, banners, T-shirts, and calendars. The Youth Bank members in Gori went a step further and created a blog on food safety issues [https://ybgfoodsafety.wordpress.com/blog/], where they uploaded short video-instructions on how to produce, select, and consume safe food. The Youth Bank members from Ninotsminda conducted public degustation of sausages sold in local shops and organized laboratory testing of the three samples, which was voted as most tasty by the majority of votes.  Of these samples, the tests revealed food safety violations, about which the young people informed local residents and the relevant public authorities.

To encourage civil society organizations (CSOs) to get involved in promoting food safety reforms and protecting consumer rights, EPF announced a grant competition for the establishment of consumer assistance service (CAS) centers and selected three CSOs to set consumer assistance services and to operate the CAS centers during April 2014 and March 2016. The selected CSOs were to provide food safety and consumer rights consultations to citizens, to follow up on consumer complaints, including via gathering visual and audio evidence and organizing laboratory analyses of suspicious food products, and to advocate for improved sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) regulation and practice.

Society Biliki was one of the winners of the competition to establish such a center in Gori.  During the project period, the grantee tested 72 food samples on different parameters and detected 17 violations of food safety or labeling regulations. To improve food safety and consumer protection practices in Gori, the grantee referred the identified problems to the relevant entrepreneurs and public authorities, seeking remedies.  The advocacy resulted in 10 cross-checks by the National Food Agency (NFA), which resulted in such measures as monitoring of the enterprises and laboratory testing of the products.  In 6 cases, the NFA confirmed the violations, fined respective enterprises and requested removal of the contaminated food from the market.  In 2 cases, the entrepreneurs, without the involvement of the NFA, responded to the grantee appeals and addressed the identified violation.

Another CAS center was set up in Akhaltsikhe by the Medical Ecological Association (SEA). During the project period, the grantee tested 116 food samples on different parameters and detected 30 violations of food safety or labeling regulations. After SEA referred the identified problems to the entrepreneurs and public authorities, the NFA conducted 8 cross-checks by testing the relevant products or otherwise monitoring these enterprises.  As a result, the NFA stopped the operations of 3 enterprises, due to contaminated production line, with another enterprise fined for labeling violation and the fifth enterprise ordered to remove unlabeled food from its shelves.

In Kutaisi the CAS center was set up by the Association of the Greens Movement of Georgia/Friends of the Earth. During the project period, the grantee tested 65 food samples on different parameters and detected 15 violations of food safety or labeling regulations. The identified problems were referred to the relevant entrepreneurs and public authorities.  Following the NFA’s cross-checks 5 violations were addressed.  Thus, 2 enterprises were precluded from operating, due to contaminated production line, two enterprises were fined because of labeling violation, and expired food products were removed from the shelves of a local shop and a bakery.

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