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Identification and labelling of beef and veal

In the wake of the crisis over mad cow disease (or bovine spongiform encephalopathy), the European Union (EU) has adopted new provisions concerning the identification of bovines and the labelling of their meat. The new provisions improve traceability and food security throughout the sector. They enable European consumer confidence to be strengthened and the creation of favourable conditions for breeding bovines for beef and veal production.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 July 2000 establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 820/97 [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

The regulation establishes:

  • a cattle identification and registration system (Title I);
  • a compulsory labelling system (Title II, Section I) and a voluntary labelling system (Title II, Section II) for beef and veal).

IDENTIFICATION AND REGISTRATION OF CATTLE

Every Member State must set up a cattle identification and registration system. This system must comprise the following elements:

  • ear tags to identify animals individually;
  • computerised databases;
  • animal passports;
  • individual registers kept on each holding.

Eartags

a) Cattle from the European Union

Animals on a holding born after 31 December 1997 or intended for intra-European trade after 1 January 1998 are identified by an eartag inserted in each ear within twenty days of birth and, at any rate, before they leave the holding of birth. Both eartags bear the same unique identification code, which enables each animal to be individually identified and the holding on which it was born. In the case of cattle intended for cultural and sporting events, the tags may be replaced by an identification system offering equivalent guarantees and authorised by the Commission.

b) Cattle from third countries

Any imported animal which has passed the veterinary checks laid down by Directive 91/496/EEC must be identified by an eartag applied within twenty days of the veterinary checks and, at any rate, before it leaves the holding. This requirement does not apply where the holding of destination is a slaughterhouse situated in the Member State where the checks are carried out and the animal is slaughtered within twenty days of undergoing the checks.

c) Provisions covering all cattle

Any animal from another Member State retains its original eartag. No eartag may be removed or replaced without the permission of the competent national authority. The European Parliament and the Council are to decide by 31 December 2001 on the feasibility of using electronic identification arrangements.

Computerised databases

In accordance with Directive 64/432/EEC of 26 June 1964 on animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in bovine animals and swine within the EU, Member States have, since 31 December 1999, operated a computerised database which records cattle identities, the holdings on their territory and cattle movements.

Individual passports

a) Issue of the passport

Since 1 January 1998, the responsible national authority has issued passports for all cattle within fourteen days of the notification of their birth or, in the case of imported cattle, within fourteen days of the notification of their re-identification by the Member State concerned.

The authority may also issue passports for animals from other Member States. In such cases, the passport accompanying the animal must be surrendered to the Member State which issued it.

b) Holding and surrender of the passport

The passport accompanies the animal throughout all movements. It is returned to the responsible authority:

  • upon the death of the animal. The passport is surrendered by the keeper no later than seven days after the death of the animal, or by the operator of the slaughterhouse if the animal was sent for slaughter;
  • when the animal is exported to a third country. The passport is surrendered by the last keeper to the responsible authority at the place where the animal is exported.

c) Exceptions

Member States which have a computerised database may decide not to issue passports to cattle which are to remain in their country. Animals are not accompanied by their passport only when being moved to another Member State.

Individual holding register

With the exception of hauliers, any keeper of animals must maintain a computerised or manual register of animals on the holding.

Information on the origin, identification and destination of animals is available upon request to the responsible authority for a period of at least three years.

The Commission may lay down special rules applicable to cattle movements in mountain areas.

Comitology

By means of the management procedure, the European Commission, assisted by the Committee for the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, draws up the arrangements for implementing the system for the identification and registration of cattle (e.g. eartags, passport, register, checks, penalties, transitional provisions, etc.).

Compulsory labelling system

Operators or organisations marketing European or imported beef are obliged to label the beef at all stages of the marketing process. When the product is not pre-wrapped, they must supply relevant information in written and visible form to the consumer at the point of sale.

Labelling must include the following information:

  • the reference number or code establishing the link between the meat and the animal (or group of animals) from which the meat was derived;
  • "Slaughtered in" (country where slaughter took place and licence number of the slaughterhouse);
  • "Cutting/cut in" (country where cutting was performed and licence number of the cutting plant).

Moreover, since 1 January 2002, operators must also indicate:

  • the country where the animals were born;
  • the country where the animals were fattened/bred; and
  • the country where the animals were slaughtered.

Where the beef is derived from an animal born, bred and slaughtered in a single country, this information may be grouped together under one heading, "Origin", followed by the name of the country in question.

By way of derogation, imported meat for which not all compulsory information is available is labelled "Origin: non-EC", followed by the name of the third country in which it was slaughtered.

Labelling for minced beef must show:

  • the reference number or code establishing the link between the meat and the animal (or group of animals) from which the meat was derived;
  • the indication "Produced in" (followed by the name of the country of production) and the indication "Origin" where the country or countries concerned are not the same as the country of production;
  • the country of slaughter.

Operators may supplement the above with information on the place (establishment) of slaughter, the place of cutting (establishment and country), the date of mincing, the country of birth and the country or countries of breeding.

Voluntary labelling system

Operators or organisations marketing beef may include information complementary to what is required in their labelling. To this end, they must send a specification for approval to the responsible authority of the Member State in which the beef in question is produced or sold. The specification must include:

  • the information to be displayed on the label;
  • the measures to be taken to guarantee that the information is accurate;
  • the checks applicable at all stages of production and sale, including those to be carried out by independent bodies recognised by the responsible authority; and
  • the penalties to be applied, in the case of organisations, to members who fail to comply with the specifications.

Specifications which do not ensure a link between the identification of the product and the animal or which provide for labels containing misleading or insufficiently clear information will be refused.

The European Commission, assisted by a Management Committee, will lay down the period after which a specification that has been neither approved nor rejected by the responsible authority will be considered to have been approved. It may also establish an accelerated approval procedure for certain types of meat.

In the case of voluntary labelling of imported beef, the specification must be approved in advance by the responsible authority in the third country where the meat is produced. This country subsequently notifies the Commission of the authority responsible for approval, the criteria and procedures followed in examining the specification, and the list of operators involved. However, approval will be valid within the Community only if the criteria applied by the third country are judged to be equivalent to those laid down in the Community Regulation.

Member States notify the Commission of the voluntary labels they approve so that it may inform the other Member States through the Management Committee for Beef and Veal.

Where an operator or organisation fails to comply with the specification, the Member State may withdraw the approval or impose supplementary conditions.

Provisions relating to both labelling systems

By means of the management procedure, the European Commission, assisted by the Management Committee for Beef and Veal, draws up the implementing arrangements for beef labelling (e.g. definition of minced beef, definition of specific information which may be shown on labels, transitional measures, etc.).

ENFORCEMENT AND CONTROL OF THE IDENTIFICATION AND REGISTRATION SYSTEM AND THE LABELLING SYSTEM

Experts from the Commission, in conjunction with the responsible authorities, carry out on-the-spot inspections to ensure that the checks are conducted in compliance with the Regulation. The findings of the inspections are discussed with the responsible authority and set out in a report. On the basis of this report, the Commission may decide to review the situation within the Standing Veterinary Committee and to adopt the necessary decisions in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Regulation.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000

14.8.2000

-

OJ L 204, 11.8.2000

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Acts of Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia to the EU.

1.5.2004

-

OJ L 236, 23.9.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006

1.1.2007

-

OJ L 363, 20.12.2006

The successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED ACTS

2006/28/EC of 18 January 2006 on extension of the maximum period for applying eartags to certain bovine animals [Official Journal L 19 of 24.1.2006].

Commission Regulation (EC) No 644/2005 of 27 April 2005 authorising a special identification system for bovine animals kept for cultural and historical purposes on approved premises as provided for in Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council [Official Journal L 107 of 28.5.2005].

Commission Decision 2001/672/EC of 20 August 2001 laying down special rules applicable to movements of bovine animals when put out to summer grazing in mountain areas [Official Journal L 235 of 4.9.2001].

REPORTS

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 25 January 2005 on the possibility of introduction of electronic identification for bovine animals [COM(2005) 9 - Not published in the Official Journal].
It recommends the adoption of electronic identification to improve the current identification and registration system, which is based on classic eartags. The use of an electronic system would allow for greater precision in holding registers, on-the-spot data entry, and the preservation and continuous update of holding registers.
This report summarises the experience gained from the IDEA (Identification Électronique des Animaux) project on electronic livestock identification, whose final report was presented in 2002.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 27 April 2004 on the implementation of Title II of Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products [COM(2004) 316 final -Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 03.05.2011

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