Products, services and equal competition

The Finnish Food Authority | National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health | Finnish Patent and Registration Office

Food business operators are monitored target-specifically

Source: Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira

Every grocery store, restaurant, café and establishment that has something to do with foodstuffs (food business operator) is a separate target of food control. If a food business operator engages in more than one food business activity, it is registered in the category of its principal activity. The category of ‘food service’ covers cafés, restaurants and mass caterers.

Targets of food control 2015–2017

Food control is risk-based and systematic

Food control being risk-based means that food business operators with high-risk are controlled more often than low-risk food business operators. Therefore, a food establishment that produces meat products is a higher-risk food control target than, say, a kiosk that sells packaged foodstuffs.  In food control, the control targets are categorised into various risk categories and the control frequency of each group is determined on the basis of the risk categorisation. This is why some control targets are inspected several times a year, whereas other control targets may go through several years between inspections.

Coverage of inspections in 2015–2017, %

The percentage indicates the proportion of inspected food business operators out of all the registered food business operators.

Coverage of inspections per category in 2015–2017

The percentage indicates the proportion of different groups of food business operators, that have been subject to an inspection during the year in question.

The results of food control are easily available online and by the doors of food establishments

Food control is carried out systematically across the country under the OIVA system. The food control authority inspects selected aspects of the control target during each inspection, and the results are published in the form of an OIVA report. There are four possible results: excellent, good, to be corrected and poor.

The results of OIVA inspections are published at the entrances of food business operators inspected. The OIVA results of food business operators can also be found at  (in Finnish and Swedish).

Results of OIVA inspections in 2015–2017 based on a scale of A to D

More than 85 per cent of the inspected control targets received an excellent or good result during the inspection period. Less than 15 per cent of the control targets received a result indicating a need for corrections or a poor result. If a food business operator's result is poor or indicates a need for corrections, the company will be inspected again at a later date.

OIVA results across Finland in 2015–2017

A more careful study of grocery stores and service locations (cafés, restaurants, mass caterers) proves that some 85 per cent of inspected grocery stores have achieved an excellent or good result. Of the inspected service locations, an average of 87 per cent have achieved an excellent or good result. 

Administrative coercive measures allow for addressing activities contrary to law

Food control authorities are obligated to ensure that a situation contrary to law is rectified. The Food Act lays down the administrative coercive measures to be employed when necessary. The graph shows the situations in which an administrative procedure concerning coercive measures has been initiated per the type of coercive measure required. The most commonly employed administrative coercive measure is an order. An administrative procedure concerning an order was initiated in slightly more than 250 cases in 2015–2016. At the moment, no statistics are available on request for pre-trial investigations made to the Police or criminal convictions involving the food sector.

It is possible that being driven into financial difficulties increases the risk of a failure to comply with statutory obligations in the food business, too. This is why information concerning food control is collected for the purposes of a snapshot on the grey economy and economic crime. The statistics of food control and monitoring should be studied by comparing them to the observations and statistics of other authorities included in the snapshot. This allows for finding shared characteristics or even underlying mechanisms between different phenomena or within a single phenomena.

Decision to initiate a procedure concerning administrative coercive measures in 2015–2017

Classification drawn up on the basis of administrative coercive measures pursuant to the Food Act.

The alcohol administration combats the grey economy

Source: National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health Valvira

To combat the grey economy, Valvira discloses individualised data on licence applicants and licence holders pursuant to the Alcohol Act from the alcohol register it maintains to other authorities. The register serves to produce analysed data on the supervision of serving and retail sales and the reliability of an entrepreneur and the determination of the entrepreneur’s financial capabilities. The information also serves as the basis for the production of official statistics on alcohol and information and register services related to alcohol matters.

The alcohol trade register includes details of industry operators, alcohol licences, alcohol deliveries, serving, extended serving hours, retail sales, production, import and wholesale licences and the existence of licensing criteria.

The numbers of serving and retail sale licences and the sales values have changed

The numbers of serving licence holders have increased, while the numbers of retail sales licence holders have decreased across the country when comparing the situation in February 2017 and 2018. The reason behind the decrease in retail sale licenses is the structural change in trade, but there is no corresponding single clear factor behind the change in serving licenses.

Serving and retail sale licences on 28 February 2017 and 28 February 2018

Categorisation of serving licenses: An A licence entitles the license holder to sell all alcoholic beverages, while the B and C licences entitle holders to sell wines and alcoholic beverages with a maximum alcohol content of 4.7 per cent, respectively. Serving licences are divided into those valid until further notice and those valid for a fixed period of time. As of the reform of the Alcohol Act, B and C licences in mainland Finland were discontinued and serving licences are issued in the form of A licences as of 1 March 2018.

Categorisation of retail sale licences: Travelling shops (i.e. vehicles or vessels), Alko shops and handover locations, vineyard shops.

Licence holders pursuant to the Alcohol Act are obligated to deliver information related to their operations to the Regional State Administrative Agency of their place of business. Licence holders must submit quarterly reports including details of the company’s sales and staff. Retail sale holders deliver annual reports including details on the sales of alcoholic beverages and foodstuffs in euros.

The following graphs describe the regional distribution of the value of alcoholic beverage sales in 2017. Compared to previous years, the trend has indicated a decline in value. This leads to the conclusion that the licence holders’ combined sales of alcohol have declined.

Value of alcoholic beverages sold and food sales under a serving license and a retail sale licence per Regional State Administrative Agency in 2017

The monitoring of the alcohol administration is effective

Valvira supervises the Regional State Administrative Agencies’ monitoring of serving and retail sale licences across the country. The fulfilment of licence holders’ financial capabilities is monitored as part of the supervision. The monitoring activities of the Regional State Administrative Agencies in 2017 have been collected in the table shown below. The performance monitoring includes the number of measures on any requests for clarification sent to licence holders, agreed payment schemes, details of the cancellation of a serving or retail sale licence, bankruptcy, adjustment of debt and debt restructuring as well as information on any tax debt paid (in euros).

Regional State Administrative Agencies’ performance monitoring in 2017

In 2017, the measures of the Regional State Administrative Agencies in terms of the financial capabilities of licence holders indicated that the successful and productive prevention of the grey economy must be effective from an administrative/economic perspective and should be allocated to targets selected more accurately and carefully than today.

The records in the Trade Register are controlled

Source: The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

The Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) is the authority responsible for maintaining the Finnish Trade Register and controlling the validity of the records. The number of offences concerning Trade Register records and of notifications subjected to risk-based checks are an indication of potential participation in the shadow economy.

PRH launched stricter checks of Trade Register notifications in March 2016, and they were continued in 2017. The practice has helped prevent irregularities.  In 2017, a larger number of notifications than before were checked, and false registrations have been successfully prevented.

PRH received a total of 19,687 notifications of changes in limited liability companies or cooperatives in 2017 with details of a new board of directors, managing director or real estate manager. As part of their processing, 1,956 notifications were referred for further investigations to ensure that notified decision is correct. Of these, 23 lapsed, as the request for correction was not responded to. No entries are made in the Trade Register based on lapsed notifications. It is possible that there are cases among the lapsed notifications that are based on fabricated documents. Lapsed notifications are not investigated further to establish whether they constitute a registration offence.

In 2017, four notifications were submitted that gave reason to suspect a registration offence. Each of these cases was investigated by the police based on the request made by a shareholder or PRH.