Smarter rules for safer food: draft regulation on official controls

European_Commission_LogoOn the 6th May 2013, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a draft regulation on official controls and other official activities performed which aims to strengthen the enforcement of health and safety standards across the “agri-food chain”.

This is an important Regulation, which will have an impact on every food business, producer, operator and Competent Authority in the EU.

Currently, the legislative framework for the organization of official controls is established through Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004. The new proposal aims to put in place a more robust, transparent and sustainable regulatory framework that is better “fit for purpose” which will repeal Regulation (EC) No 882/2004.

The proposal is part of a ‘landmark package’ which also includes major reviews to modernise, simplify and strengthen animal health, plant health and plant reproductive material legislation. The current body of EU legislation covering the food chain consists of almost 70 pieces of legislation. The package of reform will cut this down to 5 pieces of legislation. For official controls this is achieved by integrating the current applicable rules in specific areas currently governed by separate sets of rules (e.g. controls on residues of veterinary medicinal products in live animals and animal products, and plant health controls) into the framework of the new official controls Regulation.

Watch this video for the statement of Tonio Borg, Member of the EC in charge of Health and Consumer Policy, concerning this major reform.

An overview of legislation that will be repealed or amended through the proposed Regulation can be found through this link (see page 2). More information can be found here, here and here.

Some highlights

  • Broadened scope to include the whole agri-food chain. The new areas included are plant health, plant reproductive material and animal by products;
  • The current system of mandatory fees to finance the effective implementation of these controls within a sustainable system along the whole chain will be extended to other sectors within the chain which are currently not charged; Micro-enterprises will be exempted from such fees, but not from controls, in order not to affect their competitiveness;
  • Member States will also be asked to fully integrate anti-fraud checks into their national control plans and to ensure that financial penalties  applicable to violations must at least offset the economic advantage sought through the violation;
  • Provisions to enhance transparency in relation to how competent authorities carry out official controls. This includes a requirement to publish more timely and regular information on the types of controls and their outcome and to establish “rating schemes” whereby consumers can consult data on the performance of retailers restaurants and other businesses;
  • The creation of a common framework for carrying out border import controls on animals and goods entering the EU;
  • Provisions allowing the Commission to adopt detailed rules across a range of areas of 
official controls via delegated and Implementing Acts;
  • Rules to facilitate official controls for on-line sales. These facilitate competent 
authorities to order samples on line for official testing without having to identify themselves. The Regulation also specifically gives competent authorities the option of closing internet sites where non compliances have been identified relating to activities of the site.

Entry into force

Approximately in 2016. It depends on when both European Parliament and Council have approved the final text of a legislative proposal. More information about the legislative procedures? Click here for general information and here for a PDF-file concerning the ‘Ordinary legislative procedure’.

Next step?

This letter was sent to the European Parliament and the Council. They will consider the Commission’s package of measures and adopt their positions. When more details of the legislative planning or other news regarding this proposal are published, you will read it here!

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