Electronic identification of bovines to further strengthen food safety and animal health in the EU
European Commission - IP/11/991 30/08/2011
European Commission - Press release
Brussels, 30 August 2011 – The European Commission today adopted a proposal that will, when implemented, further enhance food safety and better safeguard animal health in the EU.
In particular, the Commission proposal provides the legal framework for the introduction, for the first time and on a voluntary basis, of an electronic identification system (EID) for bovine animals. Bovine EID is already used in several EU Member States on a private basis mainly for farm management purposes. Its implementation on a wider scale will strengthen the current traceability system for bovine animals and food products (e.g. beef) making it faster and more accurate. Finally, it may bring benefits to farmers and other stakeholders as it will reduce the administrative burden through the simplification of the current administrative procedures. Despite its voluntary character, the Commission proposal allows Member States to introduce a mandatory regime at national level.
In addition to EID, the Commission proposal introduces changes in relation to labelling, by repealing the current provisions on voluntary beef labelling. The main objective is to reduce unnecessary administrative burden.
Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli, said. "This is a new step forward in the reinforcement of the safety of the food chain in the EU. Indeed, when implemented, this proposal will facilitate the reporting of animal movements to the central data base. This will mean better and faster traceability of infected animals and/or infected food, which will allow us to react rapidly and fend off any future potential risks to the food chain".
Bovine EID will strengthen consumer protection, improve disease prevention and control and crisis management, support the competitiveness of the sector (e.g. by facilitating identification and registration controls or by improving breeding animal and production management systems) and improve trade perspectives. Meat processing establishments and traders of live animals will also benefit through a reduction of labor costs.
Bovine EID, in conjunction with e-reading, may help to reduce paperwork for animal keepers by easing the requirements related to written notifications and registration of animal movements. Indirectly, it will also help to manage and supervise certain Community aid schemes in the field of agriculture.
Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 lays down the principles for setting up a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals as well as labelling of beef and beef products. The main goal of this Regulation was to re-establish consumer confidence in beef and beef products, after the BSE (mad cow disease) crisis, through transparency and full traceability of bovine animals and beef products.
It was, therefore, crucial to localise and trace individual animals for veterinary purposes as a tool for the control of infectious diseases. A large majority of stakeholders considers the current regime of traceability and bovine identification a success. Nevertheless, improvements can be made in order to make the current system more accurate and faster by reducing processing time, errors and administrative burden via EID reading1.
Currently in the EU, all notifications (births, deaths, animal movements) must be manually registered by stakeholders and converted into an electronic format into the national computerised database. The excessive administrative burden involved in these notifications has been the subject of concern and criticism by farmers and other animal keepers due not only to the labour costs but also because of the potential implications for cross-compliance payments, which may lead to reductions of the Single Direct Payment and other CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) schemes.
This Commission's proposal takes into account the results of a series of consultations which took place with interested parties and the result of an impact assessment. It was concluded that the preferred option for introduction of EID would be a voluntary regime, as a mandatory implementation of EID might economically affect some operators in a non-advantageous way. Introducing bovine EID on a voluntary basis will allow actors to have time to familiarise themselves with the EID system and to identify the added value of EID and the benefits for farm management purposes.
The proposal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council. The implementation date will depend on the time needed for these two institutions to reach an agreement.
This proposal concerns cattle, bison and water buffalo. EID is already being used successfully in the EU for other animal species like horses, donkeys, sheep, goats and pets (dogs, cats and ferrets).
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This conclusion was based, among others on the fact that this Regulation was listed as "information obligations with special importance in terms of the burdens they impose on businesses". In addition, the Action Plan of the new EU Animal Health Strategy foresees the Commission to simplify information obligations in the course of introduction of bovine electronic identification (EID).