Ukraine has already taken the first steps towards adapting food quality control legislation to European standards in accordance with the Association Agreement. Efficient implementation of these requirements will ensure food safety in the domestic market and open opportunities for entering the world markets. The success of the implementation of European norms in Ukraine depends on the attention to details in secondary legislation, and on the quality and transparency of work of a supervisory authority. This was emphasized by experts, industry representatives and government officials at a discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
According to Volodymyr Lapa, head of State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, proper food quality control is almost impossible under the current legislation. Until 2017, the SSUFSCP could not carry out scheduled inspections of business entities. In order to conduct an unscheduled inspection, the SSUFSCP must receive a consumer complaint and coordinate with the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food. Because of bureaucracy, the period between filing a complaint and an inspection can last up to six weeks, which makes an inspection meaningless.
The EU has one of the world’s best food standardization and control procedures. The system is designed in such a way that the European Commission controls the quality of control in member countries, and they – the effectiveness of control in their own country, effective self-control of market operators and the distribution of responsibilities among them, said Maryna Nelina, representative of Government Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. Adapting to these requirements will ensure better quality of food products on the Ukrainian market and help Ukrainian producers enter the world markets. “Today, 280 Ukrainian enterprises, including 98 food producers, have the right to export to the EU, in particular – poultry, fish, honey, eggs, milk and dairy products,” said Ms. Nelina.
Recently, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law “On state control in the field of food safety”, which approximates the Ukrainian control system to these standards. Now it is to be signed by the President. “This law strengthens the possibilities for control, strengthens business requirements and at the same time protects business against corruption risks. […] We protect the consumer from a dangerous product, the manufacturer – from corruption components, and make production cheaper, we enable the manufacturer to export products, increase sales, and additional possibilities of the manufacturer create additional benefits for the consumer,” said MP Oksana Prodan. There will be an exclusive list of what the controlling authority can inspect; the entity has the right to video the process. Fines will not be imposed for violations that do not relate to food safety. The transition period will be nine months. During this time, it will be necessary to adopt up to 40 by-laws regulating the issues in certain areas.
Gennadiy Kuznetsov, head of the Board, Food Processors League, noted that the period of nine months is an extremely short term for such volume of work. To really near the EU rules in 3-4 years, the Parliament will have to pass 30-40 laws and by-laws every year. Yevheniy Gorovets, EU Project “Improvement of Food Safety Control System in Ukraine,” noted that it is precisely the fine details specified in the by-laws which play a key role. The largest amount of work in this area lies ahead. It cannot be done quickly due to the limited number of specialists who can professionally work with such legislation. Besides, harmonizing the legislation is not enough; it also takes the proper implementation of new requirements. This hinges on professionalism and integrity of the controlling bodies, emphasized Oksana Prodan.
Oksana Skytalinska, dietologist, stressed that first of all, it is necessary to restrict the use of transfats, nitrites, preservatives, sugar substitutes, salt and coloring agents, and also to oblige producers to specify ingredients in detail and in a readable form, so that a consumer should be aware of what he buys. At the same time, the current requirements for nitrates applied in Ukraine can be relaxed to meet the EU standards, says Gennadiy Kuznetsov.
During this year, the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection will focus on explaining the new rules and motivating the unregistered business entities to register. According to some estimates, about half of the business entities are unregistered. “We evolved into an extremely liberal system of state control and we also want to evolve from it. If we demand 100% compliance with the law, the vast majority of enterprises will be simply closed down. This is not our goal. We have a goal to explain and thus encourage them to register and adhere to the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) and other rules of the law, which will come into force,” emphasized Volodymyr Lapa.
Maksym Barabukha, director of quality control department at Fozzy Group, noted that not only state control, but also corporate standards play a significant role in ensuring quality: self-control of operators and mutual liabilities of the supply chain partners. In contrast to the inspection by the controlling authority, under the mutual contracts the “chain” participants can arrange a check of the supplier within two days, or, if an incident occurs, within one to two hours, to stop the sale of potentially dangerous products. Efficiency in this case is mutually beneficial for reasons of reputation.
Producers, in their turn, are asking for the abolition of unfounded claims, such as payments to the state for the use of state standards.