Brussels, 6 October 2006
A Commission proposal to take safeguard measures against a UK dairy, due to serious breaches of EU food safety rules, has been backed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health today. It was agreed that all Member States will ban curd cheese produced in “Bowland Dairy Products Ltd” from their markets, and will trace and destroy any curd cheese from this dairy that may be in circulation. The safeguard measures aim at addressing a series of serious food safety and hygiene problems identified by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission. The Commission is also considering infringement proceedings against the UK for its lack of action on this issue.
An FVO inspection of Bowland Dairy on June 9 2006 found the establishment to be non-compliant with a whole series of EU food safety laws, as well as the overriding EU rule that food which is deemed unsafe or unfit for human consumption must not be put on the market. There was evidence that raw milk containing antibiotic residues or contaminated with substances such as detergents and dyes was being used to make curd cheese, as was out-of-date milk collected from retail establishments. Bowland was also using mouldy and contaminated cheese (including “floor waste”) to vacuum-pack for sale.
The Commission alerted the UK authorities and repeatedly demanded that the responsible food operators and UK authorities immediately address the problems and prevent products unfit for human consumption from reaching consumers. The Bowland case was discussed by all Member States on a number of occasions, including in Standing Committee meetings in July and September. A follow-up FVO inspection in September found persistent non-compliance in the dairy, while extensive discussions between the Commission and the UK authorities revealed that they took no effective action to ensure that the dairy came into full compliance with EU hygiene and food safety laws.
Under EU food law, operators have primary responsibility for ensuring that the food they put on the market is safe and fit for human consumption, while Member State authorities are responsible for ensuring that EU legislation is fully complied with. However, the General Food Law Regulation 178/2002 gives the Commission the mandate to ban a specific food from being placed on the market if it is deemed to pose a serious risk to human health, and if Member State action is insufficient to avert such a risk.
The Commission will now formally adopt the safeguard Decision endorsed by the Standing Committee today, and the ban will have immediate effect. An FVO inspection of the entire UK dairy sector is scheduled for November. If evidence is found of similar practices elsewhere in the UK, the Commission will take further action. The safeguard clause agreed today will remain in place until the UK Food Safety Authority has shown that it has taken measures to ensure that there is no risk to human health, and has changed its procedures with regard to what it demands for antibiotic testing in milk.
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