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Brussels, 2 July 2010

Food safety: EU experts confirm production of milk-products can resume only if they are safe

The European Commission is closely monitoring the situation as regards altered mozzarella cheese, and production of milk products at the affected establishment in Germany can resume only when it is verified that these products will be safe for consumption. This is the two-fold message that emerged from yesterday's meeting of EU experts (Member States and Commission) at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH). The German food safety authorities informed the other Member States and the Commission in detail about the controls carried out by its competent authorities and the corrective measures taken by the establishment. The Committee also discussed protection of laying hens, Aujeszky's disease in pigs and Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheatis (IBR).

The Commission presented to the Standing Committee the main findings of the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) onsite mission performed between June 23 and 25. It identified, among other things, the failure of the company to inform the competent authorities when the contamination was detected. The Commission stated that only when the competent authorities provide full guarantees that the source of contamination has been eliminated and the bacteriological quality of the products has been restored, production of milk products (like mozzarella) can resume.

The altered mozzarella cheese from the affected establishment had a blue colour to it. It was first spotted in Italy, which notified all the Member States and the Commission on June 9 through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). The altered cheese had also reached other Member States and third countries, where the product was withdrawn from the market.

Other issues discussed by the Committee include:

Protection of laying hens: Council Directive 1999/74/EC on the protection of laying hens foresees the ban of battery cages by 1 January 2012. In order to ensure that the ban will be properly enforced, the Commission discussed the state of play of the ban's implementation and announced that its inspection services will focus in 2011 on verifying that Member States have taken actions to prepare the phasing out of battery cages.

Aujeszky's disease: the SCoFCAH also decided to upgrade the health status of Slovenia, Poland and all of Spain vis-à-vis this viral disease that affects pigs, since significant progress has been made recently in the efforts to eradicate it. Slovenia now joins the group of Aujeszky's-free Member States, while Poland and all the territory of Spain (only a few regions were concerned before) are now on a list of Member States following special trade rules (which must be applied in order not to jeopardize the achievements in the fight against the disease).

Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheatis (IBR) and related trade conditions: the SCoFCAH endorsed a Commission proposal on IBR which affects cattle to ease their movement within the EU without compromising the health status of areas free from the disease. New conditions have been introduced allowing direct movements of fattening animals destined for slaughter into enclosed stables. This will be done through a channelling and traceability system supervised by the Member States' competent authorities.

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