EU to review food hygiene laws

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

The European Commission plans to review the EU's new hygiene laws
to determine whether further amendments are needed to strengthen
provisions related to meat inspection, gelatine, good food safety
practices and cold stores.

The EU's package of hygiene laws came into force at the start of 2006, with some measures beingphased in over the year. While the package has lead to higher costs for food processors, it has thepotential to make cross-border trading in the bloc simpler for them by establishing a common set ofrules.

According to a report issued by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Commission announcedthe review and possible changes at the 11 December meeting of the working group on veterinary legislation.The Commission plans to seek comments from member states and other affected parties via a meeting ofthe food chain committee on 12 January.

The FSA reported that the Commission discussions related to the need for further legislation onmeat inspection, gelatine manufacture, proposed Community guides to good hygiene practice and cold stores.

The Commission said the review would probably resulting in legislative proposals emerging at the end of 2008. The Commission explainedit had no definitive strategy yet, but was considering three broad options for the review.

One option, described as "minimal", would result in a report and no proposals. Aproposal to extend HACCP-based principles to primary production could be part of this first option.

A second strategy would be to target amendments requiring co-decision from the EU Parliament andthe Council of Ministers. The third option would be to conduct a thorough review, with majorlegislative amendments proposed.

Currently the Commission favours the first two options, the FSA reported.

"The Commission is likely to favour one of the first two options and plans to engage with stakeholders early in the newyear,"​ the FSA stated. "The indication is that member states will also be asked for their views at a meeting early in the new year. The UK does not consider that the legislation needs a major overhaul."

The Commission has asked the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) to report any issues arising from its round of missions tomember states.

At the December meeting the Commission reported that it was currently proposing minor amendmentsto the law on the inspection of meat. The Commission said that references to 'veal calf', 'lamb' and 'goat kid' had been replaced bythe description 'young bovine/ovine/caprine animal' to bring into line with definitions used inthe EU's agriculture department. The definition of 'young ovine animal' had been amended to refer to dentition.

The Commission said the changes would form an annexe to Regulation 2074/2005, one of theimplementing measures of the current food hygiene legislation.

Representatives from member states also asked the Commission to clarify the requirement for the official veterinarian (OV) to be present during post-morteminspection of meat. Some member states want criteria a derogation from the legislation for specifiedslaugherhouses.

The Commission noted that a risk analysis would be necessary by the competent authority to determine which slaughterhouses could benefit from this derogation.

The Commission stated the proposal had been introduced at the request of FVO which had encountered different interpretations during missions tomember states, and had requested clarification. The Commission said that its intention is to reduce the costs of official controls at small slaughterhouses to preserve their financial viability.

A discussion on 'small' and 'discontinuous slaughter' resulted in a decision not to include these terms in thearticles of the regulation, the FSA reported. The UK stated that the criteria were not related to food safety risks and opposed the Commission's text. An amended version of the Article, tabled by UK, was rejected.

further revision will be circulated for discussion at the next meeting, the FSA stated.

In relation to gelatine manufacture, the Commission outlined a European Federation's request for changes toSection XIV of Regulation 853/2004. The industry's wish was to allow for an alternative method of equivalent effect until the legislation could be changed to include a specific reference.

Other updates were being sought which would bring the legislation into line with the pharmacopeia. The industry also queried the need to label product with its date of manufacture and wanted a change to the documentation requirements for raw materials.The FSA noted there was a lack of support from some member states for the industry proposals.

Participants at the meeting also discussed the issue of hygiene controls in coldstores . Theyasked whether the Commission intended to take any further action. The Commission said it was concernedabout increasing regulatory burdens on industry.

"The Commission stated that the problem was wider than meat alone and expressed a view that it is the responsibility of the recipient of goods to ensure that they received the correctinformation,"​ the FSA reported.

The package of five laws introduced by the EU on 1 January 2006 merged, harmonised and simplifiedcomplex food hygiene requirements that had been scattered over seventeen EU directives.

European consumers have become increasing concerned about food safety, mainly due to the bovinespongiform encephalopathy (BSE) scare in cattle beginning in the late 1980s, a foot and mouthdisease outbreak in 2001 and of avian flu in 2003 and this year. As a result the EU and regulatoryauthorities in member states have been increasing their regulation of the industry, resulting inmore costs and greater public scrutiny of manufacturers' operations.

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