Food Law News - EU - 2000

23 March 2000: BEEF - Green light for safer beef labelling system

EP News Report, 23 March 2000

Green light for safer beef labelling system

Good news for the Community's beef consumers came from the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection when it gave the green light on Tuesday 21 March to an EU-wide compulsory identification system for bovine animals and the labelling of beef and beef products. The system is to be introduced by 1 September 2000.

The main aim of the new regulation is to enable consumers to trace the source of the meat they buy right back to the animal. This system should enable any potential threats to human health be tackled early and effectively. In adopting the report by Michael PAPAYANNAKIS (PES, GR), the committee, chaired by Caroline Jackson (EPP/ED, UK), considerably modified the Commission's proposal.

The proposal lays down general rules for a compulsory system, to be introduced in two separate steps. Two stages are needed because full traceability cannot be ensured until 2003 owing to a delay by Member States in setting up computer databases on the identification and registration of slaughtered cattle. From 1 September 2000, operators and organisations marketing beef must indicate on the label certain information about the meat and the point of slaughter of the animal or animals from which that meat came. The system is to be reinforced from 1 January 2003, when information must be added concerning the origin of the animals, in particular where they were born, reared and slaughtered. Only then will the system be watertight.

The committee felt that there should not be too much information on the label. Consumers would be informed more effectively if labels indicated the Member State or third country of origin, rather than the precise region of origin of the meat, as the Commission had proposed. Regarding imported beef from non-EC countries, it was stressed that the same labelling rules must be applied and, where not all the information was available, a clear indication to that effect should be provided. For third countries which could not provide reliable information, the label should indicate: "Origin: non-EC". As from 1 January 2003, labels should also mention antibiotics and stimulants that might have been administered as well as fattening methods used. Finally, the committee was against derogations from the regulation for minced beef, beef trimmings or cut beef, arguing that this was not in the interest of the public health objectives pursued.

The Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development saw a number of its amendments incorporated in Mr Papayannakis' report, which is scheduled for debate at the April plenary session in Strasbourg (codecision, first reading).

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