In the last year, food from Serbia was returned from the EU border 18 times, and in the last month, three times (biscuits, cauliflower and cheese spread). The border analysis found that they contain illegal and potentially dangerous substances.
The European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) said on November 9, that residues of the pesticide fluazifop were found on cauliflower grown in our country, which is not necessarily dangerous, but an excessive amount can cause central nervous system problems such as drowsiness, dizziness, loss of coordination and fatigue. This contingent of cauliflower was subsequently destroyed.
On November 2, the RASFF reported that titanium dioxide was found in biscuits from Serbia, which is used because of its white pigment, primarily in cosmetics and plastic production, but also for marking white lines on tennis courts. Its use in food was banned by the EU in early 2022 because it is suspected that it can cause cancer.
Also, on October 20, aflatoxin M1 was found in cheese spread from Serbia, which is likely to be carcinogenic to humans, given that its carcinogenicity has been proven in animals.
Other food products – such as chips, fruits and vegetables – were also returned from the EU border this year.
Before that, from the beginning of the year until August, consignments of Serbian goods were stopped 10 times and each time it was noted that the goods contained substances that are dangerous to human health. These included peaches, nectarines and apples full of pesticides, animal feed that contained aflatoxin B1 (the most toxic aflatoxin of all), smoked salmon which contained a bacterium that causes serious diseases of the nervous system, peanuts which lacked proper health documentation necessary for export to EU countries, frozen strawberries that had too much cadmium in them, which in excessive amounts can have a carcinogenic effect, herbal liquor that had illegal additives… We should add to this list cucumbers (containing a banned fungicide), prunes that had mould on them and paper straws that were not produced up to the EU standard.
Why does this happen so frequently?
The Food Safety Law that is in force in Serbia is not harmonized with the EU laws and this is probably the reason why food produced in our country is often returned from Croatia, an EU member, that is, it cannot be exported to the Union, because it does not meet the food safety standards there. This is what the Foreign Investors Council’s White Book for 2023 says.
Consumers in Serbia are not that concerned that someone could not export fruit to the EU but their real concern is that nobody knows what happens to these products once they are returned to Serbia – are they destroyed (as Serbian authorities claim) or do they somehow find their way back to shops in Serbia.
“It is quite logical for consumers to ask themselves what kind of food they are eating. There is no systematic control in our country, not only microbiological, but also quality control. For instance, nobody checks whether fruit juice does contain 50% of fruit, as stated on the packaging. We lack proper market supervision,” says Zoran Nikolić, vice president of the National Organization for Consumer Protection (NOPS).
Nikolić also says that he doesn’t understand why producers do not follow the regulations of the countries to which they export.
“They know very well to which country they are exporting and they have to understand that the EU market offers them the opportunity to be competitive and make a good profit. For instance, the shelf life of frozen meat in our country is one year and in the EU it is six months”, Nikolić adds.
This post is also available in: Italiano