Macedonia applies new food safety system

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Authorities hope new rules will not only protect consumers but also strengthen the appeal of Macedonian food products in regional and international markets.

By Marina Stojanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 27/01/09


Macedonia begins using the Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP) food protection system on January 1st. With this action, all food merchants, restaurants and food producers must comply with safety regulations governing the sale, service and preparation of food.

Besides protecting Macedonian consumers from illnesses, HACCP could help the country's food exports gain more appeal in regional and global markets.

Stores, restaurants and food producers will receive training in the new system this winter and spring. Starting on May 1st, those not complying with the HACCP rules face stiff fines.

"We know this is a difficult process that in the first phase may cause problems, but implementation of this system is for the citizens and their safety when they buy and consume food," Health Minister Bujar Osmani said. "Until May 1st, inspectors can issue only warnings, remarks and directions for implementation of the HACCP system. After this date, punishment for violators will follow."

According to the manager of the Food Bureau's Sector for Production and Sales, Bozin Petrovski, the biggest anticipated problem in implementing the HACCP system is in restaurants.

"Those businesses make a variety of dishes that all have different preparation and storage requirements, so we expect adaptation [by restaurants] to have the most difficulties," Petrovski said.

Under the system, businesses must identify all safety risks that could affect the product. They must determine the critical control points -- that is, controllable stages during the product's life cycle -- and design a system of tests, as well as a corrective action plan and verification procedures. They have to document all processes.

The health ministry defined three categories of enterprises that must obey the HACCP system: industrial food producers, restaurants and food retailers.

According to the Food Bureau, only 5% of the companies in Macedonia have implemented the HACCP system so far. Starting in May, the maximum penalty for noncompliance will be 5,000 euros for the legal entity, 3,000 euros for the responsible person at the establishment and closure of the building for six months to two years.

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