Food Law News - EU - 2000

Scottish FSA Letter, August 2000

HYGIENE - Draft European Commission Proposal for a Decision on the Control of Listeria Monocytogenes for Certain Categories of Ready-to-Eat Food of Animal Origin

The letter invites comments on a draft European Commission Decision on the control of Listeria monocytogenes for certain categories of ready-to-eat food of animal origin. Please note, the draft is currently a working document and under discussion within the EU Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC). The Commission is planning to hold a number of working group meetings in the autumn to develop the text further with a view to adoption of a Decision towards the end of this year.


The Commission has prepared the draft Decision in the light of the opinion from the EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health on the risk to health from the presence of Listeria monocytogenes levels in ready-to-eat food. The Committee issued its opinion on 23 September 1999. The main conclusions and recommendations of the Committee are attached at Annex 2 for reference. A full copy of the opinion is available on the European Commission's web site at the following address:

Scope and main requirements

The draft Decision applies to establishments approved under the relevant product-specific hygiene legislation to manufacture ready-to-eat meat products, meat preparations, milk products and fishery products, where such products support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes. The main elements of the draft Decision are summarised in a Memorandum to the Commission drafted by the Commission Services.

In brief, the draft Decision requires relevant food businesses to control the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in certain categories of ready-to-eat food as defined in Article 2 of the draft Decision. Operators of food processing establishments must evaluate the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in the relevant categories of food to verify that the concentration of Listeria monocytogenes does not contain more than 100 colony forming units (cfu) per gram during the shelf life of the product. Verification must include sampling and testing unless alternative procedures with the same effect are in place in the establishment. Sampling must cover products and the production environment. Article 5 sets out various courses of action which the operator must follow depending on the results of the tests on samples carried out and whether they reveal the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. These include product recall where testing reveals the product may contain more than 100 cfu/gram at the end of its shelf life. Enforcement authorities would be required to check compliance with the provisions of the Decision.

Current position of draft Commission Decision

The draft Decision has been discussed briefly at recent meetings of the EU Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC). The Commission circulated the draft text attached at Annex 1 (reference number SANCO/594/2000 Rev.2) at the SVC meeting on 18 July. A number of Member States have welcomed the draft Decision in principle while seeking further clarification from the Commission on aspects of the detail. The Commission is planning additional working group meetings in the autumn to develop the text further with a view to adoption by the SVC towards the end of the year.

The FSA would particularly welcome views on

They would also welcome information on any additional costs that you feel the introduction of this proposal would have for industry and enforcement authorities. In considering any additional cost implications, you should bear in mind that the draft Decision anticipates that measures taken by establishments to ensure that ready-to-eat food does not to contain more than 100 cfu/gram during the shelf life will be carried out within the own health checks arrangements required under existing product-specific hygiene legislation.

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