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Brussels, 24 April 2003

New feed hygiene requirements: the missing link to guarantee food safety

The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new Regulation on hygiene requirements for animal feed. EU rules already exist for aspects of animal feed, such as feed additives, controls and labelling. However, rules on the production, transport, storage and handling of feed as proposed today were missing. The Commission also considered the desirability and feasibility of establishing an exclusive list ("positive list") of permitted animal feed in the EU. The proposed Regulation will now go to the European Parliament and Council to be adopted in the co-decision process. The report on the positive list will be communicated to the European Parliament and Council.

David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said: "This is the last major action flagged up in the White Paper on Food Safety the 'missing link' to complete our 'farm to fork' approach. As we know, many food crises have their origin in contaminated feed, such as the recent dioxin scare. Therefore the hygienic handling and production of feed is absolutely vital to ensure safe food. Also of particular importance is the obligation for feed operators to provide financial guarantees to cover the costs if something is wrong with their feed. The polluter must pay public money should not be used to undo avoidable damage."

Feed is either produced using soile resources (e.g. grass and cereals) or from by-products of the food industry (e.g. bakery waste). These materials often require complex industrial transformation to preserve the feed material or to produce compound feedingstuffs. This proposal intends to cover all types of feed and the entire range of feed business operators.

Feed hygiene

    What kind of new rules will be applicable?

    The following main elements are included in the proposed Regulation:

      It applies to the production of feed at all stages, including the primary (on farm) production of feed. It will therefore provide improved traceability throughout the food chain. This last point is of particular importance to enable the swift and accurate identification of feed (and food derived from feed), should a problem be detected. This is essential for the effective protection of public health.

      It repeats the requirement that only safe feed be placed on the market by businesses. This obligation on business is already enshrined in the EU Food Law Regulation for the food producing industry.

      Operators must respect hygiene requirements defined in the Regulation. For example, measures to control the contamination arising from air, soil, water or plant protection products. Personnel has to demonstrate adequate training.

      Feed business operators other than at the level of primary production must implement the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) system to identify where control is critical to ensure feed safety. This is a self-checking system by industry where each establishment will have to design a specific monitoring programme in which all potential hazards must be identified. Proper control procedures for each feed business must be set up individually and documents and records of whatever checks are carried out have to be kept.

      The proposal introduces the compulsory registration of all feed businesses by the competent authority. The current obligation to approve after an on-the-spot check by the competent authorities certain types of feed producers who deal with particular substances such as antimicrobial substances will be maintained.

      The development of guides of good practices for the production of feed, at national or EU level, are foreseen under the proposed Regulation. This will particularly affect the primary production on farm level. Some countries or sectors do have such codes of good practice already.

      Feed operators will be obliged to ensure a financial guarantee, such as insurance, to cover the cost of risks related to their businesses - such as the costs arising from withdrawing products from the market, and the treatment or destruction of feed or affected food.

      Provisions are made for equivalent standards for imported feed into the EU, most particular that feed only originates in establishments from which imports of feed are permitted.

    What flexibility has been foreseen for businesses?

    The private production of feed and the feeding of animals for home consumption are excluded from the scope of the Regulation.

    The feeding of non-food-producing animals is also excluded from the scope of the Regulation.

    The rules laid down by this Regulation are not applicable to the retailing of pet food.

    Finally, trade between farmers of small quantities of feed at local level is also excluded from the scope of this Regulation. Member States will be allowed to establish, at national level, rules governing this exclusion.

    Why is the provision on financial guarantees being introduced?

    EU food law already lays down the responsibility of feed business operators where there is reason to believe that their feed is not in compliance with feed safety requirements. This proposal lays down a requirement for a guarantee to cover the operators' responsibility for the withdrawal from the market, treatment and/or destruction of any feed presenting a serious risk (also covering food produced from such feed). This is to prevent the resolution of future feed crises costing large amounts of public money.

Exclusive list ("positive list") of feed materials

The Commission also presented today its report to the Parliament and the Council on the possible establishment of a positive, or exclusive, list of feed materials. The report is the result of many months' reflection, including a feasibility study to examine different options to establish, manage and amend a positive list.

The most important conclusion is that the establishment of a positive list would not be decisive in ensuring feed safety. In consequence, the Commission will not present a proposal to make such a list.

"None of the recent food crises caused by prohibited or undesired substances used in feed would have been prevented by a positive list because as the term indicates, they are prohibited", commented David Byrne. "It is a lot more important to respect hygiene rules as proposed today to obtain clean feed. I will however work to complete the existing list of forbidden feed materials. And to state the obvious: Business has to ensure that prohibited substances are not used and Member State authorities need to control that prohibition vigorously".

    Why does the Commission not want to establish a "positive list" for feed, if this might protect consumers?

    The safety of a feed material depends on its characteristics but also on the way it is processed, handled, transported and used. A safety-oriented classification of feed materials should take into account all different types of processes. While some of them are relatively simple (for example, "dried"), other might change the chemical nature or the structure of the substance. The Commission therefore considers that it is better to develop rules to ensure the safety of the processes, to ensure that the final feed is safe.

    Another important point is that a feed material can be safe for a certain category of animals but unsafe for others. So a positive list would have to take into account all the possible categories of animals each feed could be used for.

    What will the Commission do then to improve feed safety?

    It considers that the improvement of the safety of feed requires measures:

      to lay down provisions for feed hygiene as proposed today and to improve existing provisions for feed controls as proposed in January this year;

      to widen the scope of the legislation concerning the list of ingredients whose use is prohibited in feed;

      to extend the existing non-exclusive list of feed materials for labelling and traceability purposes; and

      to recast feed labelling provisions.

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