Ministry's food audit results delayed by safety claims

Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE).
Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE). Source: ERR

Completion of a food safety audit ordered by the rural affairs ministry has been postponed following criticisms of food safety issued by the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll), Baltic News Service reports.

The audit, requested by rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE) in mid-June, has been put back from its original deadline of Aug. 20, to Oct. 1, according to daily Postimees.

The delay follows a damning report by the audit office in June which said that precautions taken by the Food and Veterinary Authority (VTA) and the Agricultural Board, both of which fall under the rural affairs ministry's ambit, concerning the content of plant protection agents in fruits and vegetables is unsatisfactory, adding that ultimately, no authority or body possesses an adequate overview of how safe the food Estonians consume really is.

The emergency audit from the ministry has turned out to require in-depth analysis, prompting the delay, according to Toomas Kevvai, deputy secretary general for food safety, research and development at the ministry. The common occurrence of key personnel being on vacation in the months of July and August was an added factor.

"We have additional questions for those preparing the audit," Kevvai said, according to BNS.

"Since the head of the audit is on vacation, we must give them extra time," Mart Järvik added, telling Postimees a tentative audit is ready as of now, though he did not point the finger at the audit's compilers.

"It is rather the questions from us, which we asked additionally, which came too late," Järvik said.

Järvik also declined to disclose any of the findings of the initial audit.

"The results cannot be made public before the answers are received. We will talk about this when we have the [final] audit," he added.

Back in June Järvik noted his aim was to subject the entire food safety procedures and regulations, including the division of competences and responsibility, to a critical review.

"If there are any kind of organizational problems or command chains being broken somewhere, someone will bear direct responsibility," Järvik told Postimees at the time.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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