Inspections in European Union member-states last year show that national traceability systems are failing to guarantee that meat can be tracked from farm to fork, reports Food Chemical News.

Inspectors found a "clear need" for improvement in the national systems, according to Food Chemical News. In the later stages in the production chain, from wholesale cutting and processing through retail, "it was often not possible for the movement and origin of meat to be traced with a sufficient level of certainty," they said in a summary report.

Inspectors found that commercial documents required under EU law to accompany meat were missing, incomplete or inaccurate in 11 of the bloc's 15 member-states. These missing documents "could make the traceback of meat difficult or impossible."

In four member-states, inspectors found it was not always possible to tell the difference between meat from EU countries and imports from outside countries.

Despite the failings in the later stages of the production chain, the situation regarding traceback of meat from the slaughterhouse to the farm-of-origin was "largely satisfactory," the report said.

The effectiveness of national labeling and traceability systems could be hampered by a lack of coordination among the various national services involved, the inspectors found. The report blamed this situation on the complexity of the legislation and the required control systems, warning that poor coordination "risked creating gaps in the planning and performance of official controls and could have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the necessary traceability systems."

The report notes that, in a few cases, extra resources would be needed if member-states were to carry out all the controls required under EU law.

Although nearly all member-states have implemented EU traceability legislation, some exempted parts of the meat processing and distribution chain from certain requirements, the report said. While the exemptions did not directly affect consumer health, the report added, they revealed inconsistencies in the way legislative standards were implemented among the member-states.

National Pork Board