EC verified Maltese controls on animal feed

The MCCAA and the Agriculture Department reassure readers on the vigilance exercised by Maltese authorities on animal feeds in terms of the applicable European legislation

‘Malta at centre of organic food fraud’ (8 May, 2016) reported an investigation by Italian authorities called ‘Vertical Bio’.

The MCCAA and the Agriculture Department rebut several allegations made in the article, to give readers a more complete picture than that which emerges from the Italian declarations to the media, which did not seek the competent Maltese authority’s views during the investigation, and to re-assure them concerning the vigilance exercised by Maltese authorities on these products in terms of the applicable European legislation.

The investigation referred to goes back to an incident over one sole shipment passing through Malta which occurred in 2012. This investigation appears to have been initiated, following fraud scandals in Italy in previous years, which had dented the credibility of Italian producers, at the prompting of the commercial lobby of Italian organic producers. 

The former ministry responsible for agriculture immediately took steps to clarify in detail its control activities in that specific case, and to ask this organization to withdraw its baseless allegations, and to point out its conflict of interest in this field (the same lobby also offered rival commercial services of certification in third countries through Italian embassies).

The case in question concerned a first-time transhipment of cereals intended for animal feed from Moldova, which was not unloaded in Malta but only sampled by the Control Authority in Malta (MCCAA) before being dispatched to be kept in a customs warehouse in Italy, in line with instructions sent to the Italian Customs Authorities by the Malta Customs. 

It must be pointed that the Italian authorities seized these goods following tests which were conducted on the consignments after these had been lying for a number of weeks in grain warehouses in Italy. Following a letter shared by Italian authorities in the first quarter of 2014 within the EU channels referring to two investigative operations carried out concerning food and feed originating from third countries, Malta felt compelled to write to the European Commission to clarify further its own role in ensuring border controls on the basis of a factual and detailed chronology.

The EU Commission subsequently carried out a mission in Malta through its Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) as well as DG Agriculture, and after examining all the facts and documentation in detail, issued a report which supports the view of the Maltese authorities that legislation and systems were in fact in place in conformity with EU legislation and that revisions to continue improving and upgrading these systems had been undertaken, in spite of the very small amount of producers and imports which the system needs to cater for. 

The EU Commission specifically did not include any comment or reference in its report as concerns shortcomings on the part of that case which involved Malta. Since 2012, the Maltese competent authority has never been contacted by Italian investigators to provide information in the context of their investigations, although there has been at least one recent case where Italian authorities have initiated investigations based on a flagging by the Maltese authorities.

The Agriculture Directorate has endeavoured to continue revising and improving the control systems in place and over the past few years has revised the legislation in force as well as continued to bolster market surveillance and controls, both on imports as well as produce sold at retail in Malta, and on Maltese producers, including through the MCCAA as the official control authority. This has resulted in a number of investigations both upon own initiative or following complaints, as well as corrective actions taken, which have also included suspension of licences for certain operators found in breach. This system was audited successfully once again by the EU Commission in the context of controls on Maltese producers in 2015, and more generally over recent weeks, where a final report from the FVO is being awaited.

The competent authority has not seen the report by the Pesaro judge. However in this article, it is stated that this judge in charge of the investigations, said that “D’Aprile controls both the Maltese Regulatory Body, the MCCAA and the Delva Corporation”. We consider such statements as being preposterous as MCCAA’s operations are audited externally by independent firms.

Considering also that the competent authority has never received any information, evidence, or even request for information or collaboration by these investigative authorities, we leave it to your readers to conclude how substantiated the allegations concerning the Maltese authorities’ controls can actually be.

James J Piscopo

Communications Coordinator

Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries & Animal Rights