Consumer health and export support are the first-priorities

From the Editorial Board

Delayed articles of the law on food safety and control should have been in force from Jan-01-2010.

The law would have enabled National Service of Food Safety to inspect various facilities. However, adoption of these articles has been delayed once again.
oint workshop on the subject of organization of food safety control under the EU legislation on food safety has been conducted within the framework of the EU project “Improvement of the quality of food safety, veterinary science, and plant protection”. The workshop took place in the office of Georgian-European Consulting Centre (GEPLAC) on Dec-01-2009. These issues were mainly considered in connection with small and medium-sized enterprises. The workshop was conducted within the framework of preparing negotiations on deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU. Representatives of Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia and Food Safety, Veterinary and Plan Protection National Agency attended the seminar.
The head of GEPLAC team, Mr. Claudius Maniocas and chief advisor of prime-minister Mr. Vakhtang Lejava delivered introductory speech to the attended audience. Mr. Lejava briefly overviewed existing situation of the country’s agrarian development and noted that this sector is characterized by fragmentariness and mainly family households are developing the sector. At the same time, in the process of developing food safety policy, the main task of the government is to achieve balance between food protection and food safety issues, – said an advisor of prime minister.
It’s amazing, but the fact that these words remain only good will of the government. And in reality, Georgian market is flooded with low quality, falsified production. Organ responsible for food safety control or “Food Safety, veterinary and plant protection service” has limited authorities.
State institutions are reacting only to concrete and special cases; food and enterprise systemic control has not been performed yet. The share of falsified, low quality products at food consumer market of Georgia is vast. There are frequent cases of violating labelling requirements, rules of selling food (storage conditions, spoiled goods, outside trade); Safety of the foods for sale is quite doubtful. Sanitary standard and rules are often violated in the food production process. The number of food poisoning cases is increasing, but relevant accounting is not accomplished and exact figures are not determined. Any improvements of the situation are not expected within the next five years either.
It was known that relevant agency should have been started food safety control from Jan-01-2010. However, part of the experts was not sharing this opinion and declaring that government would delay quality control once again. The doubts exaggerated even more as the government was delaying introducing the draft bill to the parliament. At present, it appeared that the articles considering control of food safety will not come into force until Dec-31-2015.
Government is lobbying entrepreneurs by delaying Law on Food Safety and at the same time, it fiercely infringes consumer rights. Government was explaining delay of the mentioned law by referring to that entrepreneurs were not ready for such kind of control and closing of enterprises would have been resulted in increased unemployment. Whatever arguments the government might have, it should take care of the population’s safety first of all. At the same time, as Georgia is striving for the EU, we should take into account that one of the main requirements of the European Union is strict control of food quality.
Production in Europe is controlled not only at shops and market, but it is inspected in the process of harvesting. Production is inspected at every stage. This is indicated in the Euro guidelines and every country is obliged to observe these rules. The situation in Georgia is completely different; we do not know what we are consuming.
At present, Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection National Service is responsible for monitoring of food that implies purchasing of the food samples for sale and their laboratory testing. Activity of the mentioned service will remain unchanged within the next five years.
According to new draft bill that was introduced to the parliament, measures considered by the law of Georgia on protection of plants from hazardous organisms will come into force from Dec-31-2015. Specifically, these measures will be taken only in case if it is known that there are cases of plant disease by hazardous organisms in the product manufacturer country. The same measures will be taken if hazardous and quarantine organisms are spread on the country’s territory or on the basis of corresponding demand of entrepreneur.
According to the same draft bill, veterinary control considered by law of Georgia on veterinary science will be carried out only at agrarian markets until Dec-31-2013, instead of planned Dec-31-2009. Specifically, these measures will be taken if epidemy is spread in manufacturer country; raw animal production will be checked either or inspection takes place on the basis of entrepreneur’s requirement.
Allow me to remind you that the Law on “Food Safety and Quality” was adopted by the parliament in Dec-2005. The law should have come into force from 2007, but its main articles on state control and inspection were suspended in Dec-2006. Afterwards, the term was delayed twice and finally Jan-01-2010 was agreed as the final date when these articles must come into force.
The mentioned articles in this law are of crucial importance as Georgian market is flooded with law quality and falsified products. 90 percent of low quality products are imported. Not only low quality products, but also low quality equipment and devices are being sold at the market and this might threaten human lives. Moreover, this delay in the draft bill is creating huge obstacles for the development of Georgian export, especially if talking about western and European markets.