Tirana, Albania | 25 Oct 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Food safety in Albania is among the lowest in Europe with the country lagging well behind its neighbors and far from European standards, says a report by the World Bank.
According to the ‘Safe Food Imperative – Accelerating Progress in Low and Middle Income Countries’ report by the World Bank Group, Albania ranks much lower than its neighbors Serbia and Bosnia, putting the health of Albanian consumers at risk from food-borne diseases.
The latest data, echo previously expressed concerns by the European Union that the small Balkan country is ill prepared when it comes to food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy.
The Animal Products–Related Food Safety Capacity Index, shows Albania lagging behind Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, with 40 points, compared to 77 for Serbia and 63 for Bosnia.
The report says that in terms of the country’s capacity to manage the food safety risks associated with animal products, Albania ranks low because of a number of factors which include bad conditions and practices in breeding animals for the food chain, inappropriately administered veterinary drugs, mishandled animals during transport, insanitary slaughter facilities and inappropriate slaughtering methods, and re-contaminated meat during storage and distribution.
Albania ranks among the 5 top countries alongside Mongolia, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Libya, Venezuela and Pakistan in terms of the huge gap between animal-based food safety need and capacities to address safety concerns.
This means the country is ill-prepared and has not invested adequately in animal product food safety capacity.
More specifically, Albania ranks among unsafe middle-income countries which do not ensure proper veterinary inspections in the whole chain of animal food production chain and which often lack adequate testing facilities and qualitative laboratories, when compared to more developed countries.
Countries best prepared are in Latin America, with Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, several of which are major exporters of animal products, topping the list. Serbia ranks high among these countries in the capacity to manage food safety risks.
Albania aims to formally open accession talks with the European Union next year. The latest European Commission Progress Report notes that Albania is at an early stage in agriculture and rural development while the country is far from meeting the standards of the common agriculture policy.
Albania’s government has vowed to tackle food safety concerns by stepping up controls across the country. During the past months, the National Food Authority (AKU) has carried out several official controls under a risk-based plan approved at the beginning of 2017, which has resulted in the closure of several irregular and illegal facilities.
Last year, Tirana opened its first public slaughter facility and the city’s mayor Erion Veliaj has vowed to crack down on illegal abattoirs operating under unacceptable sanitary conditions and put the whole food safety issue under full control.
“The World Bank report should be a sounding bell to our ears“, said the head of the legal affairs parliamentary committee Vasilika Hysi this morning in parliament, a prominent MP from ruling socialist ranks.
However, the country is still far from EU standards. The EU has asked Albania to swiftly approximate its legislation with the latest EU framework on official controls, animal health and plant health, while the country must enforce food safety rules, including official controls, import conditions and controls, and maximum pesticide residue levels.
All candidate countries are required to meet EU hygiene rules for foodstuff production, which ensure a high level of food safety, before they can hope to join the union.
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