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Brussels, 21 February 2002

Food Safety First set of farm-to-table food safety measures take effect

Commissioner David Byrne said today was a "red letter" day for food safety with the entry into force of the first set of comprehensive farm-to-table food safety measures of the key new Regulation on EU food law. They include the start of the operation of the new and reinforced rapid alert system for feed and food risks and new emergency powers for the European Commission to intervene when a feed or food is likely to constitute a serious risk. At the same time a reorganisation of existing regulatory committees into a single Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health becomes effective, and the key principles on food law and transparency in food law making start applying.

"I am satisfied that we can give EU citizens concrete reassurances that we have considerably improved the legal framework on risks in the feed and food chain" David Byrne, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection commented. "The new systems and structures for EU-wide co-operation and control of food safety risks start operating today. As an additional guarantee, the European Commission will have new powers to take emergency measures in case national authorities cannot contain an emerging food risk. These are key tools for acting quickly, decisively and effectively, wherever and whenever a food problem arises, on a farm, in the production process or at any subsequent point in the distribution chain. This proves the EU can deliver the real changes and improved safety European consumers have been demanding."

The Regulation that sets out the general principles and requirements of food law, establishes the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and lays down procedures in matters of food safety was adopted on January 28 this year. It foresees that the general principles of food law and some of the key new measures to secure food safety immediately enter into force after 20 days. Other specific provisions will apply as of 2005, or, in the case of other provisions,as soon as the EFSA becomes operational later this year. The Regulation is one of the corner stones of the new approach to food safety set out by the Prodi Commission in January 2000 White Paper on Food Safety.

New Rapid Alarm System

Among the measures taking effect today is the new rapid alert system for feed and food. The system foresees obligatory notification of any direct or indirect risk to human health, animal health or the environment within a network consisting of national competent authorities, the EFSA and the European Commission. It builds upon the existing rapid alert system for food, extending it to include the feed sector and feed and food imports from outside the EU. The European Commission will manage the system and ensure immediate transmission of information to all contact points.

Participation in the rapid alert system is in principle open to candidate countries, third countries and international organisations subject to negotiated agreements. The EFSA's role will notably be to supply scientific and technical information that will be helpful to Member States in deciding follow-up steps.

In line with the transparency and information requirements of the new Regulation, authorities of Member States should make appropriate steps to inform the public when there are reasonable ground to suspect a risk.

Emergency powers of Commission

The new regulation also confers special powers to the European Commission for taking emergency measures. Such measures can be taken where it is evident that a feed and food originating in the EU, or imported from a third country, is likely to constitute a serious risk to human health, animal health or the environment, and that such a risk cannot be contained satisfactorily by means of measures taken by the Member States. Such action can be initiated by the Commission itself, or be requested by a Member State. Depending on the gravity of the situation, emergency measures can take the form of a suspension of the marketing or use of the feed or food in question, of subjecting the use and marketing of the feed or food to special conditions or any other appropriate interim measure.

New Standing Committee - No SVC any longer

Simultaneously, the regulatory committees consisting of representatives of the Member States that have a key role in decision-making on food safety issues are reorganised within a single new structure, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. It replaces the existing Standing Veterinary Committee, the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs, the Standing Committee on Animal Nutrition and the Standing Committee on Plant Health. The new Committee will assist the European Commission in the development of food safety measures. Its mandate covers the entire food supply chain, ranging from animal health issues on the farm to the product that arrives on the consumer's table, thus significantly enhancing its ability to target risks to health wherever they arise in the production of our food. The Committee will consist of representatives of the Member States and be chaired by a European Commission representative. It may form sectoral committees to deal with specific relevant food safety and animal health topics.

The full text of the Regulation on Food law, establishing the EFSA and laying down procedures in matters of food safety is available at

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