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EU Moves to Strengthen Food Safety Standards

Friday, May 10, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The European Commission adopted May 6 a proposed package of measures aimed at strengthening the enforcement of health and safety standards for the whole agri-food chain. The European Parliament and the European Council will consider this package and make recommendations, and the Commission estimates that the new rules could take effect in 2016.

According to a Commission press release, the proposed measures provide a modernized, simplified and more risk-based approach to the protection of health as well as more efficient control tools to ensure the effective application of the rules guiding the operation of the food chain. Businesses will benefit from simpler, science- and risk-based rules in terms of reduced administrative burden and more efficient processes and measures to finance and strengthen the control and eradication of animal diseases and plant pests. Consumers will benefit from safer products and a more effective and more transparent system of controls along the food chain.

Major elements of the proposed reforms include the following.

Fees. The current system of fees to finance the effective implementation of these controls will be extended to other sectors within the chain that are currently not charged. Microenterprises will be exempted from such fees, but not from controls, so as to not affect their competitiveness.

Violations. Member states will be asked to fully integrate anti-fraud checks into their national control plans and to ensure that financial penalties in these cases are set at truly dissuasive amounts. The Commission would be able to require, not just recommend, testing and controls in areas such as food fraud.

Animal Health. The package will introduce a single piece of legislation to regulate animal health in the EU based on the principle that “prevention is better than cure.” It aims to provide a common system to better detect and control disease and tackle health, food and feed safety risks in a coordinated way. It also enables a more risk-based approach by introducing the categorization and prioritization of diseases. The law will be flexible and robust enough to provide for an effective response by the whole EU to emerging risks and new scientific developments and international standards.

Plant Health. More focus will be placed on high-risk trade coming from third countries and increased traceability of planting material on the internal market. The legislation also introduces better surveillance and early eradication of outbreaks of new pest species as well as financial compensation for growers hit by such quarantine pests.

Plant Reproductive Material (Including Seeds). The package provides more simplified and flexible rules for the marketing of seeds and other plant reproductive material with the aim of ensuring the productivity, adaptability and diversity of Europe’s crop production and forests and to facilitate their trading.

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