WHITE PAPER ON FOOD SAFETY
The Council heard a presentation by the President of the Council on the work carried out to date on the Commission's White Paper on food safety and on the main guidelines emerging from it.
In his presentation, the President noted that all delegations were in favour of the rapid creation of a European Food Authority which would carry out, in the field of food safety, essential risk evaluation and consumer information tasks. There is also a clear need to establish a general regulatory framework on food safety matters, defining the principles guaranteeing a coherent and transparent approach, covering the entire food chain. As regards the legislative measures to be adopted for the sector, the following topics should be treated as a matter of priority:
With regard to the question of substances used in the production of animal feedingstuffs, delegations appear receptive to the approach advocated by the Commission of establishing a white list in the medium term while for the time being endeavouring to expand the black list currently in force.
In relation to national controls, most delegations agree that administrative cooperation between national authorities and the Commission should be improved, particularly to harmonise control methods and the presentation of results.
Finally, as regards the international dimension, all delegations share the Commission's view that food safety cannot be regarded only as a matter of domestic policy. They believe that imported food products should comply with standards enabling the appropriate level of health protection set by the Community to be attained.
The Council took note of the Presidency's report, to be presented at the Feira European Council of 19-20 June 2000, and of a number of interventions concerning the candidates for the location of the future European Food Authority - Spain : Barcelona, Italy : Parma, and Finland : Helsinki.
Vertical Directive on foodstuffs - Honey
The Council reached, by qualified majority, a political agreement on a Directive related to honey, the Spanish delegation having announced that it will vote against at the moment of formal adoption while the Belgian and British delegations will abstain. The agreed text will now be transmitted to the European Parliament for re-consultation on the Committee procedure applicable.
This is the last vertical Directive on foodstuffs (based on article 37 of the Treaty) out of a package of five, presented by the Commission in June 1996 in the framework of a simplification exercise. The other Directives, already the object of a political agreement, relate to preserved milk, certain sugars, fruit juices and jams.
The general aim of the Directive is to lay down common rules for the composition and definition of honey, specifying the different types of products which can be placed on the market under appropriate names, together with rules for their labelling, presentation and indication of origin.
Member States should comply with this directive (and repealing of existing Directive (74/409/EEC) within 18 month from the date of its publication in the Official Journal.
Chocolate and cocoa
The Council has approved the European Parliament's second reading amendment (15 March 2000) to the common position on the Directive related to cocoa and chocolate products intended for human consumption - adopted by Council on 28 October 1999. The European Parliament's one amendment having been approved by Council, the Directive will be deemed to have been adopted in the form of the common position thus amended. Following the signing of the legislative act by the President of the European Parliament, the President of the Council and the Secretary-General of each of the two institutions, the act will be published in the Official Journal.
It is recalled that the common position was approved by qualified majority with the Belgian and the Netherlands delegations voting against and the Luxembourg delegation abstaining.
The most important element of this Directive - which lays down common rules for the composition, manufacturing specifications, packaging and labelling of cocoa and chocolate products - is to authorise the use, in the production of chocolate, of vegetable fats other than cocoa butter up to a limit of 5% of the weight of the finished product. Member States should comply with this Directive (repealing the existing Directive 73/241/EEC) within 36 months from the date of its publication in the Official Journal.