Wednesday, 26 January, 2022

Contaminated eggs and infant milk, nanoparticles … 2017: a busy year for the DGCCRF

That was in December 2017. The first batches of Lactalis infant milk were being withdrawn and recalled from the shelves after babies were diagnosed with salmonellosis. A recall extended from December 9 by decree to 620 batches of products before Lactalis further extends the recall and withdrawal in the following weeks. Unsurprisingly, the Secretary of State to Bruno Le Maire, Delphine Gény-Stephann, did not fail to return to this crisis this Thursday, during the presentation of the 2017 report of the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs. and the repression of fraud. Because consumer safety is one of the pillars of the DGCCRF’s mission.

“This crisis has deeply marked the French” explained the Secretary of State while underlining “the exemplary reaction of the DGCCRF” in this case of contaminated milk. More than 6,000 checks were carried out by it to verify that the products had indeed been withdrawn. It must be said that consumers had sounded the alarm and that several distributors had admitted in early January having sold cans of milk supposed to have been withdrawn. “50 reports were sent to justice,” said Delphine Gény-Stephann about these delays in withdrawal.

A working group must also meet, “within the framework of the national consumer council”, to address this issue of withdrawal-recall operations and announcements could take place during the month of May. In the spotlight with this crisis, the DGCCRF was very busy in 2017 with consumer safety, via investigations, checks and in the event of an alert or crisis situation, as in the case of contaminated milk.

Fipronil: more than 1,000 products analyzed

Over the whole of last year, 1,249 alerts, including 575 concerning food products, were managed by the alert unit of the DGCCRF. In the summer of 2017, the alert on eggs contaminated with fipronil had shaken several European countries. The DGCCRF then intervened with 41 operators in 22 departments. More than 1,000 products had been analyzed in laboratories and 43 references of processed products, in particular pasta, had been withdrawn from the market.

In addition to managing alerts, the DGCCRF also conducts investigations to ensure the safety of consumer products, whether they are food products or not. In the case of cosmetic products, “nearly 1,500 establishments have been checked” indicates, for example, Virginie Beaumeunier, the director general of the DGCCRF. Result? Anomalies noted in 37% of cases and around sixty reports sent to justice. “An operation in the summer of 2017 to check whether cosmetics containing banned preservatives were still marketed led to 140 references being withdrawn from the market” adds Virginie Beaumeunier.

Nanoparticles in the sights of the DGCCRF

The DGCCRF has also looked into the issue of nanoparticles. These materials 50,000 times smaller than a hair are widely used in food and cosmetics. Titanium dioxide or E171 which can be composed of nanoparticles, whitens and makes shine for example. But their health effects raise questions. “Faced with uncertainties about their health impact, products containing manufactured nanomaterials (…) are subject to a strict labeling obligation” recalls the DGCCRF.

But according to the analyzes carried out, 39% of samples in the food sector contained ingredients with particles of less than 100 nm. Above all, “for nearly 7 out of 10 cases (…), the entire ingredient was in nano form, although this characteristic was not, for most of the time, specified on the labeling of the foodstuffs concerned” adds the institution. NGOs and consumer associations have also taken up the subject, the UFC-Que Choisir even filing nine complaints in January against manufacturers of food or cosmetic products for not having reported the presence of these nanomaterials. A subject which should continue to occupy the DGCCRF.

What 2017 results for the DGCCRF?

In addition to the safety and compliance of consumer products and services, the DGCCRF also has the task of ensuring compliance with competition rules and the economic protection of consumers. In 2017, it carried out 551,251 verifications, checked 112,585 establishments and 12,414 websites. The shortcomings and infringements observed led, among other things, to 2,697 administrative fines for a total of 16.20 million euros. It should be noted that 9,134 establishments have undergone checks concerning the balance and transparency of commercial relations and 10 companies have been assigned including INCA Achats, Intermarché and Casino. Apple, Amazon, as well as Google in early 2018, were also subpoenaed.

DGCCRF Lactalis