The Israeli cabinet has approved a measure to relax import controls on foods that promises to save Israeli consumers a billion shekels a year.
“Dry foods” such as pasta, baked goods and breakfast cereals will no longer be required to get Health Ministry approval for each specific product. Instead, the new scheme introduces a kind of honor system permitting the import of items that comply with Israeli standards based on the importer’s declaration. However, Ministry inspectors will continue to inspect products in retail outlets and outdoor markets.
Certain “sensitive” categories, including dairy, animal products, baby food and fresh produce, will not be affected. They will still require filling out the Health Ministry forms and receiving approval in advance for each product.
Importers will still be required to provide all the documents necessary to substantiate the safety of the food, available to the Health Ministry on request.
While the measure awaits Knesset passage, the cabinet recommended that in the interim, the Health Ministry should ease controls on foods included in the draft law.
The bill also recommends the establishment of a special unit to enforce the rules on food imports and to conduct random testing.
Israeli food imports are an estimated 4.3 billion shekels a year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The foods that would be affected by the proposed changes account for half this amount.