An audit by DG SANTE published on 20 May 2020 found serious shortcomings on the part of Canadian farmers and beef producers in relation to EU requirements and standards guaranteed by CETA. It finds, among other things, gaps in the system for animal location control, a lack of reliable electronic databases, and a conflict of interest in the fact that veterinary inspections are commissioned and paid for by the stakeholders themselves. In the opinion of the auditors, this makes it practically impossible to check whether specific batches of meat are free of, for example, growth hormones.
On 08 October 2020, Polish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Krzysztof Jurgiel of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Jurgiel requested specific answers on “have health checks at EU borders shown an increase in the use of prohibited livestock growth stimulators in consignments of meat from third countries over the past year?”
“In view of the irregularities that were detected”, MEP Jurgiel further asked the Commission “has it expanded – or does it plan to expand – the scope of quality controls on batches of beef and pork imported into EU markets?”
On 25 November, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, responsible for Health and Food Safety, responded on behalf of the European Commission. She stated that “the audit referred to by the Honourable Member during the visits to farmers and feedlots, did not detect critical losses of traceability, or likely illegal treatment of animals” and “the identified deficiencies have no impact on the compliance of beef with EU requirements on the non-use of hormonal growth promoters”.
Commissioner Kyriakides reported that “Member States are responsible for testing of imported food subject to risk-based official controls at the EU border” and “such controls include testing for residues of veterinary medicines and hormones”. She also underlined that “in the event that positive results are found, these are reported in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed” and “since 2013, no positive results for residues of hormonal growth promoters or beta-agonists in Canadian meat have been reported”.
Commissioner Kyriakides highlighted that “commission audits in third countries verify the capacity of the control authorities to ensure compliance of agri-food products with EU requirements” and that “when the audits identify problems in this respect, recommendations to address these are made, and they are systematically followed up”. She added that “in the event that there is a serious threat to public health, the Commission has the option of suspending trade or imposing other trade-related safeguard measures”.
Finally, Commissioner Kyriakides declared that “the Commission, in the context of its follow-up of this audit, will ask for adequate evidence that any actions planned or undertaken by the Canadian authorities are implemented as announced” and “it may carry out a follow-up audit if so warranted”.
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