In 2017 the Commission launched the first EU coordinated control programme on online offered food products.
The objective is to encourage the EU countries to identify and then control in a coordinated manner websites which offer for sale specific types of products which are clearly not in compliance with EU food law.
The programme focuses on food supplements with medicinal claims since these are forbidden to be placed on the market according to Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. It is also focused on certain novel foods which are non-authorised in the EU and which have been the subject of many notifications to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) which indicates that there are serious health concerns associated with these products.
In addition the plant source of one of these novel foods is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and can only be imported into the EU if certain requirements are fulfilled. The presence of this plant in food and health supplements is one of the most commonly seized commodities that is infringing the CITES/EU wildlife trade rules.
The coordinated control plan was very well received by the Member States. On a voluntary basis, the authorities of 25 EU countries plus Switzerland and Norway participated. The authorities checked about 1100 websites for certain products which are non-compliant with EU food legislation, namely four non-authorised novel foods and food supplements bearing medicinal claims.
They found 779 offers for such products, mostly from traders based in the country of the respective authority (65%), but also from traders located in other EU countries (20%) or third countries, namely US and China (15%). Although this was not mandatory, in about 440 cases measures were taken with the aim to close the offer, including inspection of the traders’ premises, warnings and – in some cases – fines.
For non-compliant cross-border offers, administrative assistance was requested via the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation IT system (154 cases) and in case of health concerns notifications were issued via the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (139, of which 51 were notified to US and China).
The objectives of the plan were to encourage EU countries to get more engaged in the control of the e-commerce food market, to cooperate more closely on non-compliant cross-border offers and to use for this cooperation the available IT systems. It can be concluded that the objectives of the plan have been reached.