Translated from Icelandic
The Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland
Ministry for the Environment
812/JG/jg 26 November 1998
Subject: ESA report on food control
Reference is made to the ESA report on the monitoring of food control implementation in
Iceland done on 1-5 December 1997. The Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland
wishes to present the following comments. Reference is made to the extension until 1
December of the deadline for presenting comments, cf. the meeting with ESA
representatives at the Ministry for the Environment on 17 November 1998. The
Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland also sought comments from the Department
of Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik and the Eyjafjördur Regional
Environmental and Food Surveillance Authority. These comments are also presented
Section 1: Introduction
A statement is lacking here that ESA also met with the Food Council. This should appear
in paragraph 3.
Section 2: Legal basis
It is important to state that ESA obtained information that Act no. 81/1988 was under re-
examination, and also that a new law had been enacted 12 March 1998. Comments about
the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland's Board of Directors are therefore no
longer pertinent since the board has been abolished. However, such comments appear in
Section 3.1 and subparagraph 6 of Section 13.3. Also, the system of food control at the
district level has been simplified, and therefore the description of the control structure in
Section 10.1 is no longer pertinent.
Section 3: Central Authority
Under Act no. 93/1992 on the handling of seafood products and the monitoring of their
production, which has now become Act no. 55/1998 on the handling, processing and
distribution of seafood products, the Directorate of Fisheries has supervision of all
seafood product production and distribution except for retail sales. Its main task, on the
other hand, is the monitoring of production and distribution for export, and this is what
could appear here.
Also, it is not correct that the three ministries involved here meet four times a year, but
rather this applies to consultative meetings of the Ministry for the Environment and the
Ministry of Agriculture.
Finally, the population figure should be corrected. It is closer to 270,000.
Section 3.2: Advisory committee
The Food Council is not an advisory but a consultative committee. Also, the council is
not set up to assist the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland, but to ensure the
collaboration of the appropriate parties regarding food production legislation and food
control. The council is supposed to comment on proposals for laws and regulations
concerning food and harmonise them with rules and instructions concerning food,
propose resolutions for disputes concerning the implementation of food laws and deal
generally with the implementation of food control.
The Food Council meets as often as necessary, holding more than two or three meetings
per year. In less than three years, the council has held more than 20 meetings. Also the
Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland's general director is not the council's
chairman, but rather the Director of the Office of Food and Hygiene.
The discussion of the Director General of Public Health in the third paragraph of this
section is not relevant to the Food Council and should be moved to the last part of
Section 3.1, where the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland is discussed.
Section 3.3: Funding
The last sentence must state that the EFA laboratory also earns income from the sale to
the municipal public health boards (MPHB) of testing services. This item weighs more
heavily than services for industry.
Section 3.4: Tasks of EFA
The word "health" appears at the end of the second line in the phrase "control of health".
Here it is more appropriate to use the word "hygiene" in the sense of "control of
hygiene". The end of paragraph 1 states that the Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland does no direct monitoring except of imports. This is not entirely correct because
the organisation monitors dairies and is required, along with the relevant public health
board, to conduct inspections of them at least once a year.
A desirable addition to paragraph 3 of this text would be that under Article 28 of the
Food Act, the minister, after consulting with the Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland (or others when appropriate), can order precautions or preventive measures if a
risk of serious damage to health because of food is deemed to exist.
Section 3.5: EFA – priority setting, ….
It should be stated that EFA does not have to approve public health boards' monitoring
plans, even though the organisation calls for their submission each year prior to 1
December, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of Art. 19 of the Food
Regulation, and examines them, comparing the plans with each other. On the other hand,
EFA and the MPHB arrive at a mutual understanding concerning the implementation of
control projects for the coming year.
The discussion of priority matters in this section is not correct on all points. The
following comments deal with each point separately:
EFA does not approve the internal control in food companies, but rather the
public health board in each location does this.
The main focus of import monitoring is the control of pesticides. In addition,
control projects have been going on in other fields, and in addition to this,
package labelling on imported goods is examined. This information was included
in the materials that ESA got from the Environmental and Food Agency of
The third subparagraph pertains not only to salmonella but also to all food
diseases that occur, their causes and prevention.
The next to last paragraph of this section states that EFA's summary on the performance
of food inspections appears in an "annual report". This could be understood to mean that
EFA's annual report was involved. However, the findings for each year are summarised
in a report that is sent to ESA and the control areas.
The same paragraph also states that all areas have not submitted a report on the
implementation of control, and reference is made to Akranes in this regard in the section's
last paragraph. In the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland's opinion, it is difficult
to see how ESA can draw conclusions about this temporary situation in Akranes resulting
from changes in control personnel in the area. The report was unsatisfactory because of
this. Employees were hired temporarily, some of whom were working in other areas.
They were naturally fully qualified for public health control.
Because of the foregoing and, perhaps, other points, the report states: "Finally the team
noted that EFA did not seem to evaluate the public health consequences of the differences
between the local control authorities." What does this mean? Would it have been more
sensible to appoint control parties in Akranes to sit down and write or search for data
instead of attending to control and seeing to it that recording would be such as would
make necessary reporting possible in the future? For example, it can be stated that all
areas submitted a report on the implementation of monitoring in 1997. In Akranes, the
occurrence of food diseases or complaints was not above normal, which indicated that
people's health had been put at risk! So far as is known, neither have there been any other
indications that the environment or people's health has been so at risk from the status quo
that the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland would require a special evaluation.
Section 4: Import Control
It should be said here that over 80% of imported food products arrive in Iceland in
Reykjavik and the neighbouring areas, such as Hafnarfjördur. It was previously pointed
out that not only pesticides are examined. On behalf of the Eyjafjördur Regional Public
Health Board, it is pointed out that very little food is imported in this area, and that the
control of imported food is done in stores. The customs authorities also monitor imports
and frequently contact the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland if they think
something should be checked. Also, many customs employees have received instruction
on food legislation at courses given in their work place.
Because of a reference in paragraph 2 of this section to Article 6 of Directive 89/397,
which is concurrent with Article 15 of Food Regulation no. 522/1994, it should be stated
that quite a few points appearing there are minor or not relevant to import control. Import
control requires specific emphases. Among other things, one must consider that the
quantity of unprocessed animal products imported to Iceland is small. Public health
boards also examine products in food companies like raw materials, additives and other
substances found in food processing. To emphasise these points, reference is made to
Article 4 of Directive 89/397, which is no less relevant to a discussion of import control.
Subparagraph 5 therein states that the main rule of control is that its focus be based on the
judgement of control parties. The assessment of risk is therefore one of the things that
must be considered in control. Assessment-based control is better than control based on
trying to cover everything since the latter is usually unrealistic.
Section 5: Laboratories
The content of the first sentence pertains only to samples taken by public health boards.
Other parties also attend to control and sample taking, for example, in the control of
animal products like meat and fish. Also, the number of samples stated is incorrect. The
3,500 samples referred to are from the public health boards, and this should be stated.
Then, the following sentence should replace the last one in paragraph 1 of the section:
"The same year, 2000 samples from the food industry were tested."
Paragraph 3 states that it is not clear whether EFA's laboratory can minister to all the tests
necessary for food inspections. It is clear that such is not so, and neither is this the
objective. The laboratory looks to other research parties, for example, for further analysis
of specific microbes in testing for food diseases and the chemical testing of water and
The Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland denies what is stated in paragraph 4 of
the section that food companies are prevented from seeking verification of results from
tests on the samples taken. The companies have every right to formally request
verification, cf. the provisions of paragraph 2 of Article 16 of Regulation no. 522/1994.
On the other hand, it is the food companies' role to make formal requests for samples to
be taken for verification. In controlling pesticides, however, samples for verification are
always taken if the first test shows results exceeding maximum values. By nature, such a
procedure is often not possible in microbial research because of changes occurring in
samples over time. At the end of this paragraph, a statement is also made that samples are
marked so that they can be traced back to their source ("not kept anonymous"). This has
been changed in connection with the laboratory's certification.
The fifth paragraph states that the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland has access
to all findings on salmonella, regardless of the samples' origin. This is not completely
correct. This is true if a sample comes from a public control party. Also, food companies
are told that if salmonella is found in samples that they send for testing, they must give
notice of this. If, on the other hand, a confirmatory sample comes from other laboratories,
whether operated by the government or private parties, the duty to notify is deemed to be
Later in the same paragraph, a statement is made that the laboratory evaluates findings,
and that this can affect the work of those ministering to control. It should be said that in
an evaluation of the laboratory for its certification, no comment about this point was
made. The evaluators were from the Swedish certification firm (SWEDAC) and the
Swedish Food Organisation (SLV). It should also be stated that the laboratory's
evaluation or "judgement" is always according to government guidelines.
Section 6: Rapid Alert System for Foods (RASFF)
When ESA's evaluation was done, this alert system had another name whose acronym
was RAPEX. The Department of Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik
(HER) was asked about this acronym and was not acquainted with it, and the matter was
thereafter dropped from the agenda. The report, on the other hand, stated that HER had
not recognised the system (The system….). If questions had been asked about the system
itself and notices from the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland, instead of this
acronym, completely different answers would have been obtained in Reykjavik. In
Akureyri, the system was discussed, and appropriate comments were made, emphasising
that the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland should obtain answers about the
procedures resorted to when the organisation sends such notices to the regions. Emphasis
was placed on this being done regardless of whether or not it was necessary to resort to
special procedures. The example given in the report, on the other hand, is not correct
since it is the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland that has the authority to stop
importation, not the control areas. On the other hand, the control areas could stop the
distribution of products on the market.
Section 9: Basic training of inspection staff
Looking at all of Iceland, not just Reykjavik and the Eyjafjördur Region, food control
comprises more occupations. In this regard, one can mention those educated in public
health in addition to biologists and nutritionists. It would also be desirable to mention that
before obtaining job qualifications, public health representatives must attend a weeklong
course at the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland, pass a written examination and
receive on-the-job training in a control area where at least two public health
representatives work. The job training takes into account the relevant party's education
and job experience.
Section 9.1: Additional training of inspection staff
The wording of the last sentence in this section, referring to international standards,
indicates that it pertains to certification as a certifying party, for example, for a quality or
control system, or some comparable accreditation. Here, it must be clear whether ESA is
making a comment or simply recording facts. If this involves a recording of facts, the
purpose must also be stated.
The fact of the matter is that EU or EEA legislation does not require that public control
parties be accredited for evaluation or certified for certification on the basis of
international standards. There is a company in Iceland called Vottun Ltd. ("Certification
Ltd.") that must be certified to certify products or processes in company operations
(including food companies) if the companies request such certification. The assumption
by control parties of such a certification role has not been deemed normal. On the other
hand, holding courses for control parties on how an evaluation of control or quality
systems shall be done is not uncommon and is on the increase. This can be important for
evaluations of companies' internal control.
Where the above points are discussed in the report, it should be mentioned that the
Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland, along with the Office of the Chief
Veterinary Officer, held a course on the conduct of evaluations of internal control for
public health representatives and veterinarians. The same organisations have also held
other courses for these parties on internal control and a control system (HACCP). These
courses have not only informed control parties about the things, as can be understood
from the report ("to inform"), but also provided them with educational materials, where
participants have worked in groups on solutions to problems. Also, the Environmental
and Food Agency of Iceland has offered control areas assistance on evaluations, among
other things, to co-ordinate the implementation of matters. This was stated in the
information that ESA got from the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland in
connection with ESA's inspection tour of the organisation. The Environmental and Food
Agency of Iceland employees have now assisted in evaluations in nearly all control areas.
Because of the points above, a comment should also be made on what is said about
evaluations in Section 10.3 on "priorities", although with the proviso that it is not known
what ESA meant by the words "highest priority". It is undoubtedly possible to do better,
but the ESA controllers can hardly make such comments without saying what has been
Section 10.1: Organisation and infrastructure
In the first line, the word "hygiene" should replace "health".
Section 10.2: Tasks of the local organisation
ESA's statement might be construed to mean that public health boards minister only to
control at the request of the municipalities. This is incorrect. Public health work is not
subject to the municipalities. When a public health committee has been appointed, the
municipalities have no impact on the committee's decisions, and the matters placed
before the committee by a public health representative primarily pertain to policy
formulation and bigger matters like the closing of companies, refusals of operating
permits and the banning of product sales. General control is otherwise the responsibility
of public health representatives as agents of the committee.
Section 10.3: Priorities
Reference is made to paragraphs 3 and 4 of the comments on Section 9.1.
Section 10.4: Funding
The percentages shown on the ratio of fee collections to operating costs do not give an
accurate picture of all control areas. Fee collections can, for example, be greater in some
Section 10.5: Inspection
A statement is made that there is no monitoring of additives. This is incorrect. The
information received by ESA clearly indicates that the content labelling of imported
goods is checked for additives. Control projects have also been in progress, for example,
tests to check whether the content of colouring substances is in accordance with content
labels. The Department of Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik and the
Eyjafjördur Regional Environmental and Food Surveillance Authority also point out that
the use of additives in partially and fully manufactured goods is monitored, among other
things, with evaluations conducted in food companies. Also, this year and in 1997, the
Department of Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik and the Eyjafjördur
Regional Environmental and Food Surveillance Authority have taken samples to test for
phosphates and nitrites in meat. The Public Health Board for the Eyjafjördur Region also
believes that it has a good overview of the use of additives in food companies in the
This year, an extensive survey of food package labelling and the use of additives has also
been made. The survey showed that there were hardly any violations of additive
legislation. ESA has received a report on this survey, whose findings do not indicate that
additive matters are not tended to. On the other hand, testing for additives in prepared
products is not extensive.
It is correct that there is not much control of material and articles in contact with food,
but the focus has been, among other things, on internal control, that companies ensure
that material and articles are in accordance with the EEA rules. The Environmental and
Food Agency of Iceland has also been in contact with manufacturers and importers of
plastic packaging to inform them of the rules in force and encourage them to require of
suppliers that information about goods conforms to them.
The section's last paragraph states that action is not always taken when a public health
board becomes aware of a violation of the law. We request ESA to explain what this
means and to give examples of this before the report is issued. In this regard, it should be
pointed out that, on each occasion, choosing the measures to resort to falls within the
purview of public health boards on the basis of the provisions of law about their scope of
authority. The provisions to which ESA refers, that is, Article 10 of Directive 89/397,
also apply to appropriate measures, that is, at the control party's discretion. Both the
Department of Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik and the Eyjafjördur
Regional Environmental and Food Surveillance Authority point out that measures are
resorted to as needed, among other things, the granting of a certain period for reform,
depending on the nature of the matter.
Section 10.6: Sampling
If one should make a counter-argument on the basis of ESA's conclusion in paragraph 1
of this section, a public health board would not take samples if it suspected something
amiss. Such a conclusion does not hold up, and drawing it is impossible even though
more random samples are taken than those taken because of suspicion. The Department
of Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik justly points out that samples are
taken randomly, but also when there seems reason to do so because of complaints,
suspicion of inferior shelf life or food diseases. Added to this is sample taking for control
projects that are often organised because of a suspicion that all is not as it should be.
Paragraph 2 does not refer to what appeared in Section 5, paragraph 4 of the report,
which the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland protested. The former paragraph,
however, goes further because it asserts that food companies cannot have samples taken
for verification, even though they so request. This is again denied, and if ESA plans to
stand by this comment, we request that it be justified.
Regarding paragraph 3, it should be stated that both public health boards and the
Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland believe that sample taking can be done in
connection with general control in food companies, both because of suspicion that may
arise and by random sampling. In the opinion of the Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland, sample taking alone should not be deemed to be "monitoring" of a food company
and should therefore not be recorded as such in the companies' data. Sample taking, on
the other hand, is important for gathering basic information about the status quo and may
be used to monitor the effectiveness of control in food companies.
Section 11: Local Food Control Authority in Reykjavik
The number of personnel given is based only on three control divisions. The fourth
division is Canine Control, whose personnel are not included. The simplest course would
be to record the control divisions as numbering three instead of four in the first line.
Section 11.2: Priority
Where "HACCP" appears, it should be "based on HACCP principles".
Section 11.5: Inspections
Regarding the next to last sentence, reference is made to paragraph 3 of the comments on
Section 12.3: Training
Since the Ministry for the Environment has taken over the supervision of food control
and the approval of public health board representatives, reference should probably be
made to this here instead of to the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.
Section 12.4: Additional training
The course referred to on HACCP in the United States was not conducted there but in
Iceland; however, the instructor was American. Many public health representatives
attended this course. It is yet another example of educating control parties about internal
control and evaluation. Therefore, a reference should also be made here to paragraphs 3
and 4 of the comments on Sections 9.1 and 10.3, which are the same.
Section 12.7: Import
Reference is made to paragraph 1 of Section 4.
Section 13.2: Structure
Subparagraph 2: It is not clear here what is meant by the word "resources", since this
could mean work facilities, financial resources for operations and the number of
employees. The number of employees is in fact discussed in subparagraph 4 of this
section of the report, and if this is also meant here, then this is only correct if all the
public health representatives in Iceland are added together. The same applies if the work
in each control area is the criterion. The recording of such facts can therefore be more
confusing than informative. Added to this is the fact that the Environmental and Food
Agency of Iceland has good testing facilities, but the control areas do not. In addition, the
organisation's working facilities must generally be deemed to be better than those of the
public health boards. Nevertheless, it is clear that the Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland is understaffed in the Office of Food and Hygiene, that its working facilities
could be improved, and that its financial resources for operation must be increased.
Subparagraph 3: In many respects, the system was more complicated with regard to the
role of the municipalities and control boards in operation and organisation than it was for
public health representatives at work. There is therefore a question of whether ESA's
conclusions here do not go too far. The system has now been simplified, also for public
health representatives through a decrease in the number of public health committees.
Perhaps ESA has to explain better what is meant.
Subparagraph 4: It can be said that all the employees in the Office of Food and Hygiene
do not attend to food matters, except in part. One employee attends to the general control
of hygiene, but at the same time is the manager's deputy. Another tends to legislative
control of genetically modified organisms (GMO), but also has the Novel Foods Project.
The head of division tends to all the division's issue areas, and it could therefore be said
that full-time equivalent positions of the Office of Food and Hygiene number only 6.
ESA is mistaken about employees in public health control. Part-time employees are in
addition to the managing director and others working full-time in the areas, that is, South
Iceland, to which the Westman Islands belong, and East Iceland. The fact that employees
are hired part-time in specified areas is therefore to the benefit of food control in Iceland,
not the opposite.
Subparagraph 5: The wording here is too general or unpurposed and might be construed
to mean that food control was not done in specified control areas. This is not so. Food
control is conducted in all areas. It can, on the other hand, be difficult to complete all
tasks because there are not many employees, and because they are supposed to perform
many tasks other than food control. One can therefore ask whether food control is
Section 13.3: Application
Subparagraph 1: It should be stated that the Food Council's mission is not to prioritise
food control projects either for the public health boards or other organisations. The
ministry must then answer for itself, but the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland
can only partially agree with ESA's conclusion. The Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland has a limited direct obligation of control, but does tend to import control. The
organisation organises the control of preservatives in the coming year, prioritises projects
there, and sends ESA this information. The organisation also organises control projects
for the coming year and arranges their execution with the public health boards. The
organisation also has a substantial role in formulating policy on the implementation of
control or internal control. The control of food diseases is also a priority project, and the
organisation has emphasised the preparation of instructions and instructional materials
that have been well received. There is no reason to continue such a listing, but the
organisation must clearly prioritise projects in the field of food legislation and food
control. On the other hand, it is correct that if the organisation is to see to control of the
control in respect of the municipal public health boards in a fashion similar to ESA's and
based on the requirements appearing in this report, prioritisation of projects in this field is
lacking. For it to become possible to exercise strong control of the control, it is necessary
to strengthen the Office of Food and Hygiene of the Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland with additional funds and personnel.
Subparagraph 2: The Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland does not protest that
environmental control can get more priority than food control, especially in the control
areas where there are few employees. The Department of Hygiene and Environmental
Protection of Reykjavik also endorses this view and refers to the fact that environmental
matters are discussed much more than food control in Iceland (for example, in the mass
media and by the politicians). This is just the opposite of what happens today in many of
the Nordic countries. The Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland's Office of Food
and Hygiene also believes that the Ministry for the Environment can influence this by
emphasising environmental matters more heavily.
Subparagraph 3: The Eyjafjördur Regional Environmental and Food Surveillance
Authority does not agree with ESA's conclusion since it is not in accord with paragraph 3
of Section 2.5 of the report. The public health boards, including the Department of
Hygiene and Environmental Protection of Reykjavik, point out that appropriate measures
have been resorted to, that companies have been closed and the distribution of products
stopped although these measures are exceptional. Among other things, a product has been
stopped on the basis of a notice from ESA. The Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland also knows that the public health boards follow up on findings from analyses of
samples by paying visits to companies.
Subparagraph 5: The Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland held a special course
for public health representatives on new food regulations that went into force in Iceland
in conjunction with the EEA. Since then, special courses on all amendments to the
regulations or all new regulations have not been held. However, this has been done for
important regulations like foodstuff control, health and hygiene, additives and package
labelling. These courses have related precisely to the entry into force of these rules or
when they have been implemented. Without doubt, it is possible to do better, but ESA's
conclusion is not in accord with the actual facts of implementation. Most recently, a
course was held on additives with regard to the entry into force last New Year's of a new
additives list, and there was also a course on package labelling, since these rules were
being implemented in respect of third states.
Subparagraph 6: Here the word "possible" should be inserted, that is, "the possible
nomination", where something was potentially possible, but has never been done. The
present wording could be understood to mean that a representative of industry has been
on the EFA board. In addition, after amendment of the law, there is no longer an EFA
Subparagraph 7: Here it must be kept in mind that the Environmental and Food Agency
of Iceland is an administrative and service organisation that does little control. No
comment was made on this item when the organisation's laboratory was certified. There
are also instances of such work going on in food organisations abroad. ESA's comments
would be more relevant if the control areas had laboratories, as has become common, for
example, in Denmark and Norway. Attention must also be drawn to the fact that testing is
often involved that is not available from other laboratories in Iceland, and it is therefore
abnormal to refuse such services to food companies. Also, these services are often
provided to food companies in consultation with control parties, for example, with regard
to internal control. Information about the findings is sent only to commercial parties, and
the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland's Office of Food and Hygiene, therefore,
does not generally receive the findings unless samples were taken by a public health
Subparagraph 9: Because of points appearing here, reference is made to previous
comments in the discussion of Section 4 of the report. The organisation is also connected
by computer to Customs and can monitor imports throughout Iceland, for example,
because of notices from ESA (RASFF/RAPEX). Also, importers are also subject to
public health board work permits and are supposed to have internal control. The
Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland has emphasised this.
Subparagraph 10: The comment appearing here is very general, applying to nearly all
food control, and it seems to the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland and the
control areas involved that ESA, in drawing such a conclusion, went too far. At the same
time, the conclusion shows that ESA makes stringent food control demands, however in
such a way that groups of issues or substantive aspects can be found that are not
satisfactory in ESA's view. No other course is then possible than to lodge a protest
against the surveillance agency's conclusion. Other comments on the ESA report
appearing in this statement by the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland are further
support for the fact that ESA cannot present comments in the way it does here. The status
quo, regarding both the quality and security of food in Iceland, also gives no reason to
suppose that food control in Iceland is nearly in ruins. Among other things, this is said
with the comments in subparagraph 14 on the conclusions in this section of the report in
mind, where reference is made to the same articles in Directive 89/397. There, the
following appears: "Many of the tasks derived from these articles have not been given
adequite (sic) priority on any level." We request that ESA justify this conclusion and, at
the same time, take into account the comments that have appeared here about the
organisation's report, including what appears in the statement about subparagraph 14.
Subparagraph 11: Reference is made to the comments about this item that emerged in
the discussion of paragraph 4 of Section 5 and paragraph 2 of Section 10.6. ESA's
pointers concerning this item and the conclusion drawn here must logically create legal
uncertainty for Iceland's food control. This is difficult to understand because the Icelandic
Government has already notified ESA of Regulation no. 522/1994 on foodstuff control
and health and hygiene in the manufacture and distribution of foodstuffs. Therein are
provisions comparable to those appearing in Article 7 of Directive 89/397 on the official
control of foodstuffs. ESA has made no comments on the provisions of Regulation no.
522/1994, and while this is the case, and these provisions stand unchanged, the view must
be taken that the implementation of food control in Iceland is in accord with the
provisions of the Agreement on the EEA. It must also be mentioned that this regulation
has been well publicised to food companies in Iceland. It is worth stating that the
Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland has prepared instructions for the public
health boards on sample taking for verification tests when food companies request such
sample taking. These instructions are comparable to those prepared by the food control
authorities in Denmark for the same purpose. One must also keep in mind that duplicate
sample taking is generally not done in EU states although there are examples of it in
Spain and Italy, and this is not done in the Nordic countries. Because of this and because
ESA does not think it knows what is right in the matter ("It is uncertain…"), the
suggestion is made that this item be deleted from the report, or that it be dealt with in
another fashion. For example, it is unnecessary to discuss this in three places, as is in fact
the case. In addition, assertions go too far, especially those in paragraph 2 of Section 10.6
on sample taking.
Subparagraph 12: The end of this subparagraph draws a conclusion that is not
congruent with the status quo and the information received by ESA even if the
information was not satisfactory. Despite the fact that the food industry has not taken the
initiative in preparing instructions, the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland has
prepared instructions and instructional materials, both general materials and materials for
specific foodstuff operations. These materials therefore exist, and a short time ago,
instructions were sent out for comment to parties with interests in the manufacture and
distribution of foodstuffs. Thus, there has been consultation with the food companies or
their associations! Comments were solicited after the ESA control visit. As stated in
subparagraph 2 of Article 5 of Directive 93/43 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, nothing
prevents instructions from being prepared co-operatively by food companies and
This involves instructional and work materials on HACCP, thousands of copies of which
have been distributed to the foodstuff industry, and a third printing is on its way. The
Federation of Icelandic Industries was consulted on the preparation of these instructional
materials, but this was perhaps not communicated to ESA, and for this we apologise. This
material is used very much in setting up internal control in food companies. The
Federation of Icelandic Industries and the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland
were also responsible for courses on internal control and HACCP after the entry into
force of Regulation no. 522/1994 on foodstuff control and hygiene in the manufacture
and distribution of foodstuffs. Course materials were also prepared that the Federation of
Icelandic Industries later saw to the sale of to the food companies not attending the
course. There may have also been an oversight in stating that the Environmental and
Food Agency of Iceland has collaborated with the Federation of Icelandic Energy and
Waterworks, encouraging the preparation of instructions for the internal control of water
utilities. Such instructions are now available.
In addition to the above, instructions for large kitchens have been prepared with special
information for places like restaurants, cafeterias, fast-food places, coffee houses, etc.
There are also instructions for stores with foodstuffs, with special variations for certain
operations, instructions for meat processing and for bread and cake bakeries. These
instructions can be viewed on the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland's home
page. There are also arrangements for the public health boards to distribute them to
relevant companies and to use them in their work.
With regard to the setting of Regulation no 522/1994 on food control and hygiene in the
manufacture and distribution of foodstuffs, the Environmental and Food Agency of
Iceland held discussions with the Icelandic Council for Standardisation about the
preparation of a general quality or monitoring standard for the foodstuffs industry, with
the participation of the foodstuffs industry and government parties. Nothing came of this.
Then, at the initiative of the Federation of Icelandic Industries and the Ministry of
Industry and after consultation with the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland, a
decision was taken to hire an employee to work at the Technological Institute of Iceland
as a consultant to the foodstuffs industry on the requirements of internal control. For this
project, instructional materials were prepared along with an overview of available
materials on internal control and HACCP. This was also probably not communicated to
We request ESA to take the above into consideration and, not least, to have in mind that
the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland and the Federation of Icelandic Industries
have worked together to publicise Regulation no. 522/1994 and provisions therein on
internal control and HACCP.
Subparagraph 13: There has already been discussion about why one area (Akranes) did
not submit a report on control implementation in 1996, and here reference is made to a
comment on the last paragraph in Section 3.5 of the report. In addition, a statement has
been made that all areas submitted a report in 1997. On the other hand, it is correct, as
mentioned in the discussion about subparagraph 1 above, that the Environmental and
Food Agency of Iceland may improve its control of the control. Also, improvements must
be made in not only the organisation's work facilities in this division but also the
possibilities for the organisation to shape control practices to correct insufficient
performance. According to the law, the organisation has supervision over control
performed by the municipalities and co-ordinates this. The control, on the other hand, is
independent, and the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland cannot take a hand in it
except by making control proposals to public health boards or the ministry, or when a
serious matter creating risk is involved. This must be kept in mind. However, a desirable
outcome is naturally stronger control of the control that the public health boards can take
into account and utilise in building up and implementing control. On the other hand, it
may also be necessary to examine provisions of the act on the implementation of food
stuffs control and the authority that the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland has
for its work.
Subparagraph 14: Reference is made to the discussion of subparagraph 10 above. The
public health boards wish it to be stated that monitoring food companies always entails
one or more items in the referenced articles of Directive 89/397. The articles cited here
are also generally worded. In addition, subparagraph 5 of Article 4 of Directive 89/397
states that control emphases shall be based on the control party's judgement. There, risk
assessment must be an important factor. The beginning of Article 5 of the directive also
shows that control should be based on one or more items contained therein, and the
public health boards have clarified that this shall be followed. The substantive points of
Articles 6 and 10 of the directive have also been discussed in this statement, for example,
in comments on Section 10.5 in the report. There is therefore no reason to repeat them
here. On the other hand, we request that the substance of subparagraphs 10 and 14 of this
section of the report be re-examined, taking this into consideration. Also, the comments
on import control, cf. subparagraph 9, should be examined, taking the same items into
On behalf of the Environmental and Food Agency of Iceland,
Jón Gíslason, Head of Division
Office of Food and Hygiene