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IP/03/1057

Brussels, 22 July 2003

Better food hygiene: Commissioner Byrne welcomes political agreement about official controls on food of animal origin

Commissioner David Byrne has welcomed the political agreement reached at the Agriculture Council today on new official controls to ensure the hygiene of food of animal origin destined for human consumption. The proposal is one of five making up the so-called “hygiene package” of measures foreshadowed in the action plan of the Commission's White Paper on Food Safety. This Regulation, proposed by the Commission in July 2002 (see IP/02/1127), provides for revised rules for official controls on fresh meat, live bivalve molluscs, and milk and milk products. Its central aim is to ensure a high level of protection for consumers, giving enhanced guarantees for the safety of products of animal origin. The Regulation will go back to the European Parliament this autumn for a Second Reading.

"Sound effective hygiene rules are the bottom line to ensure safe food. This Regulation will update the EU's rules on official hygiene controls of food of animal origin. Together with the other elements of the "hygiene package" proposed by the Commission, it implements the principle of "farm to fork" control and ensure a coherent and effective approach to food safety. I am grateful to Council and Parliament for their hard work on this legislation. I am sure they will continue to work constructively over the coming months to complete the job", said David Byrne, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner.

Details of the proposed new rules

As regards meat, the proposed Regulation will:

    Integrate the latest opinions of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures related to public health, implementing a science-based approach to meat inspection;

    Implement a risk-based approach to meat inspection, aimed at protecting the consumer from all relevant hazards linked to the consumption of meat;

    Integrate the “farm to fork” approach into the meat inspection system, establishing a continuous flow of information between primary production and slaughterhouses;

    Create a clear division of responsibilities between the slaughterhouse operator and the competent authorities;

    Brings meat inspection legislation into line with forthcoming EU legislation particularly in the fields of hygiene, zoonoses and official feed and food controls;

    Provide for flexibility, so as to ensure the continued use of traditional methods of production, processing and distribution, and to accommodate the needs of food businesses with a low throughput or that are situated in regions that are subject to special geographic constraints (e.g. remote islands or sparsely populated mountain regions).

As regards live bivalve molluscs, the proposed Regulation identifies what needs to be done by the competent authority in order to ensure the safety of these products. This includes the setting up of a monitoring programme of harvesting areas to check the microbiological quality of live bivalve molluscs, the presence of toxin-producing plankton and the presence of chemical contamination.

As regards milk and milk products, new rules aims to ensure that where raw milk fails to meet the required health standards, corrective action is taken at farm level, and that milk that might constitute a hazard to human health cannot be delivered for human consumption.

Background

The “hygiene package” of proposals aims to merge, harmonise and simplify very detailed and complex hygiene requirements currently scattered over seventeen Directives.

The overall aim is to create a single, transparent hygiene policy applicable to all food and all food operators, together with effective instruments to manage food safety, and any possible future food crises, throughout the food chain.

The basic principles underpinning the new hygiene rules are threefold:

    The introduction of the “farm to fork” principle to hygiene policy to create a systematic, comprehensive hygiene regime covering all food in all sectors, replacing the current, sector specific, patchwork of rules;

    Food producers should bear primary responsibility for the safety of food, through the use of programmes for self-checking and modern hazard control techniques;

    The competent authority should have control systems in place in order to verify compliance with food law in general and with food hygiene in particular.

The hygiene proposals are subject to the co-decision procedure. Once adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, the Regulations will replace the Directive on the hygiene of foodstuffs (93/43) and sixteen product specific Council Directives.

Further information:

Further information about the "hygiene package" can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/intro/hygiene_en.html


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