Maik Maschke is vice-president of the Federal Association of Food Inspectors and works as an inspector in Saxony. The Pankow District Office plans to publish the results of all food inspections on the Internet from November. At the federal level, a new decree will soon come into force that will reduce regular inspections, and Maschke sees it all critically.
Mr Maschke, what’s the point of consumers in Pankow if they know how the snack bar or your café turned around around the corner during the last inspection?
Basically, it’s good when people are informed. However, too much information is harmful and dulls the consumer. Instead of confronting all control reports, which may not be easy for third parties to understand, they should be specifically informed about black sheep.
What exactly does this mean?
Consumers should find out if there has been a serious infringement and that the trader has been legally fined. In addition, it is already possible to find out information about the controls. The federal states publish the corresponding reports every year. But few will read it. We food inspectors fly under the radar until another major food scandal occurs.
New control regime weakens consumer protection, warns Maik Maschke, vice-president of the Federal Association … Photo: BVLK
All the better because Pankow is rushing forward!
I do not believe that it will go alone in individual districts. We do not need patchwork information, but a nationwide system.
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But we are far from it.
Unfortunately, yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Pankow informs, not Marzahn-Hellersdorf, what’s the point? Take a bakery with several branches in Berlin: the company must publish the results of the inspection in one district, not in another. This is unfair and leads to uncertainty.
In Denmark, the results of inspections hang at the entrance to restaurants. Every guest can see it and then consider entering the restaurant. Why can’t we do it in Germany?
Denmark has a completely different control system, the country is the central state with centrally organized official food control. In Germany, we have 16 federal states and 401 authorities responsible for food monitoring. Even the fines are different. We need food monitoring that works nationwide according to uniform criteria. Then you can also talk about symbols and notes. I can’t work with Berlin berrens, take a hygiene card in Saxony and hang three forks in a window in Stuttgart.
Another problem is that many checks are not even taking place due to a lack of staff.
We currently lack around 1,500 food inspectors in Germany to carry out the regular inspections required by law. In Germany, the entrepreneur is primarily responsible for food safety, we inspectors check how often this happens, depending on the risk assessment and the points system based on it. This system has now been changed. The new regulation will enter into force these days.
Scandal: Hessen Wilke has been supplying rotten meat for years Photo: dpa
Control frequencies are significantly reduced. Approximately 30 percent of the general rule controls will be excluded. You adapt the task to the current staff and not the other way around. All districts and cities that have not yet met the requirements will benefit. However, this leads to a significant weakening of consumer protection.
Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner says that food control must focus more on troubled societies.
If I carry out fewer regular inspections, it is all the more difficult to find problem companies at all. Take Wilke as an example.
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A producer of Hessen sausage, which brought people a lot of rotten meat …
Wilke had to be inspected at least twelve times a year so far, and only four times a year after the reform. If a food inspector finds mold on the wall, the company can warn and tell the entrepreneur to remove it immediately. However, if you check less often, the wall is already completely moldy and the mold spreads to food, it may be necessary to turn off the operation.
Instead, the Ministry of Agriculture wants to strengthen incident-related controls.
But no one knows exactly what that means. We conducted a nationwide survey and I can tell you that no one is looking at it at the moment and everyone understands it differently.