The audit found shortcomings in quality of assurances about absence of clopidol, inadequate supervision in the use of food additives and the monitoring of chemical hazards at establishment level.
However, FVO said the official control system provides sufficient guarantees about implementation of standards equivalent to EU legislation.
Overall it is capable of ensuring that exports to the EU meet most of the relevant standards.
Establishments visited were found to be generally in line with EU legislation but shortcomings were observed (not all present in each site), according to the audit.
Maintenance problems in two out of four slaughterhouses – including surfaces were not maintained to a good condition and were not easy to clean and disinfect.
Inadequate sealing of the external doors and storage of trays (used for transportation of meat) in areas in poor hygiene conditions.
Other shortcomings included absence of adequate facilities for cleaning, disinfecting and storage of knives in the cutting rooms of two slaughterhouses and no hand-wash basins for personnel handling meat in the cutting room.
Premises not laid out to avoid cross-contamination of the meat and slaughter line not allowing constant progress of the slaughter process and no sterilizers or equipment for effective cleaning of knives at the post-mortem inspection points in one slaughterhouse were observed.
“Only some of these shortcomings had been detected and recently reported during official controls and action plans had been produced by the FBOs …[However] when deficiencies were detected by the audit team during visits in establishments, the OVs ordered immediate corrective actions wherever that was possible,” said the FVO.
Responding to the recommendations, the Israeli competent authority said it will continue acting to improve the sanitation and maintenance of the facilities.
“We will demand the establishments to submit a detailed annual maintenance program with dates and we will supervise their implementation.”
Audit of HACCP systems is done during official controls. However, this cannot always ensure all the relevant hazards have been identified and taken into account in the Food Business Operators’ (FBOs’) plans, according to the audit.
“In two establishments visited producing smoked meat products, the smoking step of the production line was not monitored for the level of possible contamination with Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons,” said FVO.
“In one of the establishments, meat products were wrapped in plastic film before the final cooking process. The FBO could not demonstrate adequately that the use of this food contact material under the specific conditions (cooking at high temperature followed by cold storage) would not lead to chemical contamination.”
In response the authority said: “In the next few months we will review all HACCP plans of the EU exporting establishments to make sure all possible hazards were considered in relation to product type and with an emphasis on product smoking and product cooking and chilling in plastic package.”
Food additive findings
The audit tea found that food additives like phosphates or monosodium glutamate were used in meat preparation which is not in line with EU legislation.
Responding to this finding, the authority said it will check and change the procedure sheet (PS) to match the regulation and instruct the official veterinarians (OV).
“The regional official veterinarians will supervise the use of food additives by the establishments and the performance of the OVs during the audits and inspection, in order to ensure the fulfilling of the PS and the regelation.”
Since the beginning of 2012 there were 12 RASFF notifications (seven border rejections) for poultry meat imported into EU from Israel and all of them due to the detection of clopidol.
According to Israeli national legislation, clopidol can be used as a coccidiostatic agent at farm level and detection limit is >1 ppb or >2.5 ppb depending on the laboratory.
However, as clopidol is not included in the positive list of substances it cannot be used in the EU and there is no maximum residue limit established/allowed on poultry meat.
The Israeli authority acknowledged this finding and said it was ‘committed too complying’.
“We will make sure that all birds raised to be slaughtered for export to EU will not be fed with feed containing Clopidol to ensure "zero" residues.”
A 2008 FVO audit to Israel on poultry meat and products highlighted shortcomings in knowledge of official veterinarians involved in EU export certification chain, use of antimicrobial substances, physico-chemical tests of water and the approval, conditions and production practices at establishments exporting to the EU.
The action plan following the previous FVO poultry audit has satisfactorily addressed five of six recommendations of the related audit report but the sixth remains to be fully resolved.