Food safety regulation prompted for changes
27 March, 2014
Food safety regulation prompted for changes
Georgian non-governmental watchdogs prompt both executive and legislative bodies of the Georgian government to accelerate reforms in food law protecting consumer rights. Six NGOs, including the Eurasian Partnership Foundation, Union the 21st Century, “Environment, Risk and Social Rights”, Healthy World, Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia, and Association of Farmers Rights Protection, called on Georgian authorities on 14 March to put food safety regulation in line with EU regulations.
As the NGOs informed Georgian Journal, the Ministry of
Agriculture of Georgia assumed the obligation to review the Code on Food/Animal Safety, Veterinary and Vegetation Protection by the end of 2012. This is in order to make the law more effective and bring it closer to EU standards. However the reform program drafted for 2012-2013 has not been implemented so far.
The NGOs believe that, although the National Food Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture became much more active since the power shift in the fall of 2012, its efforts will not achieve the desired results unless they are backed by proper legislation. The list of changes that must be implemented as soon as possible include hygiene norms for food safety which do not reflect new challenges because the rules of food ingredients have not been updated since 2001.
Correspondingly, Georgian consumers are vulnerable to food additives that are even forbidden in post-Soviet countries.
The falsification control is loose and the consumer is frequently misled. The thorough monitoring of falsification does not fall within the competence of any state structure. Moreover, planned inspection of business operators is allowed only after informing the operator a month in advance. The penalty system envisaged by the Code is not effective either. On the one hand, paying penalties might be cheaper than obeying the law; on the other hand, penalties may be too burdensome to small enterprises. Besides, a penalizing system for a wide number of significant breakages will only become valid in 2015.
Another problem in the law is the clash of interests. Family, relatives or other types of personal liaisons between a controlling person and a business operator under control are currently overlooked. The mechanisms of the control/inspection results publicity is behind the par. Only part of the results which should raise a wide range of social interest is available for broader publicity.
Tools of reaction to consumers’ complaints are ineffective. The only thing the NFA is responsible for, while handling a complaint, is to carry out a non-planned inspection at the enterprise. However, the complaint side has to pass an intricate labyrinth of requirements which is sometimes impossible to get through. Food standards are not regulated either. Entrepreneurs may sell a product of which its name does not respond to the consumer’s expectation. For example, entrepreneurs may sell a product that does not include any milk at all as dairy.
“Based on these, we call on the Georgian Parliament and government to pay more attention to such an important sphere like the protection of consumers’ rights in the food sector which is in direct connection with the population’s health and future generation,” the appeal concludes.

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