France streamlines food-safety efforts

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
July 5, 2010

Food-security measures that include seafood are the focus of two recent actions by the French government.
 
Last week, the country unveiled Ansés, a “super” agency that it claims is the biggest health agency in Europe. Ansés is the fruit of a merger between France’s food-safety authority, Afssa, and the environment body Afsset.

The new umbrella agency unites various teams under one roof and gives the government “a global expertise on health risks whether linked to life, work or food,” said an official announcement.
 
Up until 1 July, Afssa (Agence Francaise de Securite Sanitaire des Aliments) has fulfilled the role of the country’s food-safety watchdog. As such, the agency has kept a constant eye on seafood. For example, in May the agency warned oyster producers of a “high risk” of oyster mortalities in spring and summer of 2010.

Oyster production in France, Europe’s oyster hotbed, took a big hit in 2008 and 2009 when disease caused up to 100 percent mortality. Spats (oyster larvae) and juveniles were particularly affected.
 
The herpes virus OsHV-1 µvar “played a major role,” concluded Afssa, stating that because a “biological reservoir for this virus and its variants” exists, there is a “high risk” that outbreaks of mortalities will recur in 2010. Outbreaks are expected from April to August largely due to higher water temperature.

In a move that also concerns seafood, last week the French government launched a two month operation to tighten food measures across the country. From 1 July to 31 August, more than 4,000 agents will be mobilized to reinforce controls concerning food safety.
 
According to an official statement, each year the inter-ministerial link-up called “Operation Food Holiday” sees agents taking a closer look at food firms specializing in seasonal products.
 
And for summer 2010, one of the three priority control areas singled out by the government involves restaurants offering seafood. Seafood restaurant operating in tourist areas across France can expect a swathe of controls, including hygiene, the management of unsold product and the temperature of stored product.

Last summer, agents closed 67 foodservice outlets in general, not seafood specifically, and seized nearly 39 metric tons of food.

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