Food Law News - EU - 2000

Commission Press Release (IP/00/799), 17 July 2000

BEEF - Commission Welcomes Compulsory Beef Labelling Rules

The Commission welcomed the decision of the Council which paves the way for EU-wide compulsory beef labelling rules from September 1, 2000 on. Commenting on the new rules, Franz Fischler, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, declared: "This decision marks an important step in enabling full traceability of cattle in the EU from the stable to the table. The Commission will ensure that the application of the beef labelling system is consistent with the principles of the single market." The new provisions will apply in two stages: the first stage, to enter into force on September 1, 2000, introduces those elements which are readily available at the point of slaughter. For the second stage to apply from January 1, 2002 - the beef label will have to include in addition precise information about where the animal was born and reared.

From September 1, 2000, the label shall contain the following indications:

From January 1, 2002, the label shall in addition contain an indication of:

Where the beef is derived from animals born, raised and slaughtered:

From 1 September 2000, for minced beef the label must contain:

From 1 January 2002 the label for minced beef must contain in addition:

The indication of the categories will not have to figure on the label.

In the run-up to the entry into force of stage 2 - namely up until 31 December 2001 - Member States may decide that, for beef from animals born, raised and slaughtered in the same Member State, supplementary items of information must also be indicated on labels. This can occur where sufficient details are available in the identification and registration system for bovine animals.

The new rules also provide for certain simplified labelling arrangements for beef imported from third countries. In addition, the voluntary labelling system as established in Regulation 820/97 continues for all indications other than those found in the compulsory system.

Legal Background

The background on beef labelling is the existing Council Regulation 820/1997 which covers both a new identification system for bovines and labelling of beef products. Based upon article 43 of the Treaty, it foresees a voluntary scheme but with the possibility for Member States to make the voluntary scheme obligatory on their own territory in relation to their own production. France, Finland, Belgium, and shortly, Denmark and Sweden, have done this. With the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty on May 1, 1999, the legal base for veterinary proposals concerning health protection must be based upon co-decision. In light of this, the Commission adopted a proposal on October 13, 1999 setting the timeframe for the compulsory labelling of beef in the Community. The proposal was based upon Article 152 (Public Health) of the Amsterdam Treaty. The proposed Regulation the basis for today's decision - was to replace the existing Council Regulation 820/97 and to lay down the general rules for a compulsory labelling system in two steps.

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