Project progress 3

Project progress until 18 August 2023

Component I: Food safety

The “EU Food Safety Project” (EU FSP) is a complex project with 97 different activities and has a duration of 3 years (from 19 May 2021 to 18 May 2024). The project activities are grouped in 3 components. We are proud to inform, that over 72% of the planned activities have been implemented from Month 1 to Month 27 (70 activities as per the project’s Terms of Reference  (ToR) are completed). The EU FSP progress is strongly associated with the excellent cooperation established between the project experts, and the Turkish Cypriot community (TCc) counterparts. A summary of the achievements as of mid-August 2023 is presented below.

In the past decades, food safety has evolved and nowadays the Food business operators (FBOs) bear the primary responsibility for ensuring that food placed on the market is safe. Nevertheless, preventive, and regular controls must be carried out by the local bodies in the TCc to verify that the hygiene standards for food and feed safety are met and maintained.

The project activities have influenced on the gradual increase of the stakeholders’ knowledge related to the food safety risks and consumer protection features, by promoting and improving the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the FBOs, farmers and veterinary experts.

Targeting the TCc FBOs, control bodies, chambers and associations, the project team prepared training materials and delivered training events and workshops on the following topics:

  • hazards and risks along the production, processing, and distribution of food
  • food safety standards, good hygiene requirements and HACCP principles for dairy & meat FBOs
  • preparation of individual HACCP plans
  • microbiological criteria for foodstuffs
  • planning, organisation, and implementation of controls
  • sampling procedures and laboratory testing methods
  • food safety risk assessment and response to emergencies
  • feed hygiene requirements and feed risk assessment
  • food safety data management
  • financing the costs of controls along the food chain
  • implementation of good hygiene practices and HACCP-based own checks at FBO level
  • microbiological and residues methods for laboratory staff
  • record keeping, labelling, traceability
  • use of veterinary medicines and residues monitoring
  • requirements for import and trade of animal products in the EU
  • food safety data management

So far, in total 30 Turkish Cypriot FBOs from dairy, meat, and honey sectors were assessed against the applicable hygiene requirements. Each FBO has been supported by the project experts in drawing an action plan for improvement of its adherence to food safety standards. It is quite remarkable that 24 of the 30 FBOs have been very pro-active along this process, and 4 of them have already been granted a certificate by the TCc body in charge of the ‘veterinary services’ that attests the FBO’s compliance with the general and specific hygiene requirements. The project expert support to the FBOs continues in the form of distance consultations or onsite and hands-on advice.

The capacity of staff performing controls and related activities in the food safety area is also being strengthened through technical assistance provided by the project experts in the process of the preparation of procedures, programs, and check lists. As a results of these interventions, the staff of the body in charge of the ‘veterinary services’ (VD) has started implementing controls in line with the best practices. The project continues providing support for further capacity building in the planning and implementation of controls, with a focus on FBOs categorisation for upgrading purpose, hazard analysis and HACCP-based procedures, record keeping, and traceability.

The project’s efforts have boosted the awareness and understanding of farmers about the risks of introduction of high impact/exotic animal diseases and their responsibilities as primary producers in the agri-food chain. The joint efforts of the farmers, the project experts, and the ‘VD’ staff, aimed at improvement of the hygiene standards and adherence to PDO requirements, have resulted in 11 farms being certified by the ‘VD’ and participating in a pilot “milk channelling system”, and 4 more farms have been certified by the ‘VD’ and pending PDO attestation.

Following the example above, significant number of additional farms have been visited/evaluated and 37 of them were interested in upgrading and PDO attestation and have been included in the pilot list for consultations with the EU FSP.

The “milk channelling system” was developed to facilitate the traceability system for ensuring that the entire chain of production is carried out in accordance with the EU standards. In this system, milk that is separately collected from the certified dairy farms will separately be transported and processed on a predetermined production line and in a predetermined time range in the selected certified dairy establishments. This practice has been introduced in 2 FBOs which have been rewarded with the PDO certification and 1 more FBO is in process to be PDO certified.

In view of enhancing the control throughout the agri-food chain, the project has delivered Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), as well as checklists, instructions, and document templates (81 documents in total). These tools facilitate the daily routines of local bodies, FBOs and farmers in monitoring and verifying adherence to the relevant food, feed, and animal health requirements.

Component II: Animal disease crisis preparedness

Animal health is the basis of the agri-food chain and a key component of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. The preparedness to combat diseases is prescribed in the new EU legislation on animal health as an obligation of the Member States to ensure a fast response in the case of occurrence of a disease that require immediate eradication measures.

To this end, the project experts have collaborated with the ‘VD’ in preparing comprehensive contingency plans, operational manuals, and SOPs providing clear instructions on the steps to be followed for ensuring a comprehensive and timely response in case of a disease outbreak. These documents are currently subject to validation and testing.

The TCc farmers and veterinary experts have been introduced to the good practices and standards on farm hygiene, biosecurity, and prevention measures to be applied at animal holdings.

The general level of awareness about the risk of introducing exotic animal diseases in the northern part of Cyprus has been raised. The understanding of farmers and veterinarians has been improved concerning the importance of prevention and risk reduction measures and the readiness to notify disease suspicion to the local bodies.

The TCc veterinary experts have received sufficient knowledge to increase their capacity for early detection, control, and elimination of high impact exotic animal diseases, and to maintain a favourable animal health status.

Training materials were developed, and training events/workshops delivered on the following topics:
  • EU legislation on listed animal diseases and crisis preparedness
  • animal disease emergencies, risks, surveillance, prevention
  • new animal health law in the EU
  • movement and traceability of animals
  • anti-microbial resistance
  • exotic animal diseases
  • farm hygiene and animal health threats
  • response to animal disease emergencies
Overall, 92 events (training sessions, workshops, consultation exercises) were delivered up to Month 24 under Components I and II, with altogether 1712 registered participants, of which the number of unique participants is 551.

Comprehensive technical reports (76 technical and overall reports, 107 Assessment reports, 91 Acknowledgements) containing an assessment of the situation, regional and local environment, analysis, and recommendations were prepared to address key capacity aspects pertinent to food safety and animal disease crisis preparedness in the northern part of Cyprus:
  • human resources needed to implement food safety controls and related activities
  • knowledge of staff involved in controls
  • financial arrangements concerning the local bodies performing controls
  • risk-based data collection and data management related to the planning of controls
  • FBOs’ situation, gaps, and action plans for improvement
  • adequacy and effectiveness of the HACCP plans at commercial dairy and meat establishments
  • monitoring of zoonosis and residues
  • data gaps in the assessment of trends, sources, and agents of zoonosis
  • inter-sectorial platform on zoonosis, zoonotic agents, and anti-microbial resistance
  • disease notification and risk-assessment
  • animal disease computerised information system related to animal diseases
  • gaps in the traceability of food products; labelling and record keeping procedures to ensure traceability
  • pilot “milk channelling system”
  • milk control and verification procedures
  • residue monitoring programme and implementing procedures
  • system for risk-based controls planning
  • upgrade of the documented procedures and instructions for controls
  • information management system for the data collected during controls
  • contingency plan, operational manual, and SOPs for Avian Influenza
  • capacity building for laboratory staff on microbiological and residues methods
  • standard operating procedures in milk and food/feed laboratories
  • scope of laboratory accreditation
  • improving the laboratory information/data management systems
  • overview of the TCc control systems
  • capacity of milk, food, and feed laboratories to perform testing for control purposes
  • plan for control of Salmonella in poultry
  • programme for monitoring/surveillance of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy
  • crisis preparedness plans and operational manuals
  • Foot-and-Mouth Disease status
  • general plan for food and feed crisis management

Component III: Cross-cutting tasks

The project experts have assessed the available system for early detection and disease notification and have provided scenarios and recommendations. The technical capacity of the relevant local body in terms of equipment and consumables has been analysed, and advice has been provided.

The local staff engaged in management of potential exotic animal disease outbreaks have been familiarised with good practices and with specific disease risk management models. They were consulted in using the results of such assessments for prevention, surveillance, and contingency planning.

Generic risk assessment of the introduction of economically important animal diseases into the northern part of Cyprus, assessment of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease status (FMD) based on the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) questionnaire and analysis of the current FMD risk assessment modalities in the northern part of Cyprus has also been carried out.

Recommendations for developing a computerised interactive information system for the effective collection and management of disease surveillance data and data on notifiable animal disease outbreaks, including data collection procedures and technical report on contribution to networking of local laboratory experts with experts in EU reference laboratories have been proposed by the project experts.

Visibility and communications

The project team has regularly been communicating to the target audience the training events, workshops and individual consultations provided to FBOs.

Leaflets, posters, and 16 guidelines addressing key food safety and animal disease topics are designed, disseminated, and uploaded on our online Food Safety Platform. The platform established and maintained by the project, is available on the following link:

The visibility and outreach work is carried out in close collaboration with the TCc counterparts:
  • the body in charge of the ‘veterinary services’
  • private veterinary practices
  • Milk Marketing Board (SÜTEK)
  • union of ‘municipalities’
  • Chamber of Industry
  • Milk Production association
  • Beekeepers’ association
  • Chamber of Food Engineers,
  • Animal Breeders association
  • the pilot farms and FBOs

Overall, the project strives towards 24 strategic results. The outputs produced until mid-August 2023 pave the way for achieving the following:

Result 1
TCc farmers, FBOs, and consumers are informed and trained about the food safety standards in the EU.

Result 3
Staff performing controls and related activities have available written instructions to support their work.

Result 7
Functional “milk channelling” from farms which fulfill hygiene and health requirements, to FBOs that fulfill EU standards (PDO).

Result 8
The pilot dairy FBOs can effectively implement EU-aligned food hygiene and food safety standards and can guarantee the hygiene and safety of the milk products they produce.

Result 10
Dairy farmers are capable to effectively implement disease prevention and hygiene requirements at primary production level.

Result 13
Traceability procedures are in place at the project’s pilot food establishments.

Result 14
Commercial dairy processors are able to demonstrate full product traceability.

Result 16
Data structure and description of data management system for food and feed risk assessment and planning of risk-based ‘official’ controls has been drafted/proposed.

Result 17
Farmers and consumers are informed and aware about food safety and animal disease risks (concerning antimicrobial resistance, residues of contaminants, heavy metals, etc.) and about the corresponding risk mitigation measures.

Result 19
The training materials produced by the project are available to the public through on the online Food Safety Platform.

EU Food Safety Project

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