Norway must improve import control system - EFTA

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Official controls related to import and transit of products of animal origin, animal by-products and live animals. Picture: iStock/zentilia
Official controls related to import and transit of products of animal origin, animal by-products and live animals. Picture: iStock/zentilia

Related tags European free trade association

Norway needs to improve its import controls system, according to an EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) audit.

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) verified that official controls related to import and transit of products of animal origin, animal by-products and live animals were in compliance with European Economic Area (EEA) legislation.

ESA identified weaknesses in physical checks, including sampling and use of the European Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) database.

EFTA recommendations​ included the Norwegian authority should ensure official import controls are implemented in a consistent manner and the reduction in frequency of physical checks for certain imported products is implemented.

In response, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) said it would update guidelines and use internal audits to follow-up.

Identified weaknesses

The monitoring plan for sampling imports was not in line with legal requirements and channelling of consignments was not implemented.

Facilities visited were generally compliant with legal requirements, although shortcomings were detected in handling of certain products for human consumption and in use of commercial storage facilities.

The audit team saw evidence of corrective actions taken by a Border Inspection Post (BIP) following detection of non-compliances during supervision by the export and import section of NFSA.

However, they also found in one case where a BIP obtained an unsatisfactory lab result in the context of the monitoring plan, no action was taken by the BIP that received the results.

The team found each visited BIP dealt with import controls with different approaches and developed its own checklists and procedures in areas where there is no NFSA central level documented procedure.

The export and import section of the NFSA informed the audit team that, during 2015 and 2016 respectively, 3,292 and 3,308 import controls had been performed, resulting in 30 and 25 rejected consignments.

Consignments intended for import are generally pre-notified electronically through TRACES before physical arrival in the EEA. However, transhipments and consignments in transit are not always pre-notified.

In general, TRACES is used correctly for recording veterinary checks at the BIPs. However, not all samples taken by BIP staff or related analytical results are recorded in the database.

Different approaches by BIPs

Records provided by the NFSA indicate that 25 consignments were rejected in 2016 in Norway.

Physical checks are done by BIP staff with varied frequency, depending on the risk assessment made by them based on their knowledge of imported products and importers’ history.

Performance of physical checks, including sampling, is subject to NFSA documented procedures. However, this does not include guidance on the frequency of random physical checks or the risk assessment for selecting which consignments are to be checked.

Samples are sent to accredited laboratories and analytical results go to BIP staff.

According to the 2016 National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) annual report, 131 samples were collected by BIP staff and analysed by NIFES for residues, pathogenic organisms and other substances.

Analytical results are sent by NIFES to the responsible BIP. However, the audit found in some cases results were sent to the BIP up to six months after the sample had been taken.

In examples provided to the team, actions taken by the NFSA in the case of unsatisfactory results was very limited due to the long delays between sampling and reception of results.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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