This note summarises progress made to date on the proposed legislation to consolidate and simplify EU food hygiene legislation. It reflects the understanding of Food Standards Agency officials of the discussions so far.
In July 2000, the Commission published a package of five measures to update and consolidate 17 existing hygiene directives. The package is intended to introduce consistency and clarity throughout the food production chain.
The package comprises:
Consultation with stakeholders
Copies of the proposals, our consultation letter to interested parties and a summary of the comments received can be found on the website at http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/consultations/eu_foodsafety.htm. The FSA's response to those comments will be added in due course. Given the detailed nature of the proposals, a number of the comments were likewise detailed. In general, there is support for modernising and simplifying the legislation. There is also a broad measure of agreement among stakeholders that a HACCP based approach is the best means of achieving this.
Food Standards Agency officials have been representing the UK at Council Working Group (CWG) meetings since July 2000. Since the proposals have not undergone scrutiny clearance by the Westminster Parliament, the UK has placed a Parliamentary Scrutiny reserve on the texts.
The proposals are closely linked, making their consideration a lengthy iterative process. Under the French Presidency (July to December 2000), an initial working level consideration of the first proposal was completed. Work began to consider the second proposal (specific hygiene rules for products of animal origin) and three meetings considered the rules applying to red meat and poultrymeat.
The Swedish Presidency (January to June 2001) intends to progress the proposals with a view to making a progress report to the March Agriculture Council. By that time, initial consideration of all of the sections relating to meat and meat products in the second proposal will have been completed. In parallel to meetings of the Council Working Group, a smaller drafting group has been convened which will reconsider the output of the Council Working Group so far with a view to making drafting improvements to the text and reporting back to the full group.
The latest version of the first proposal is on http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/consultations/eu_foodsafety.htm. This reflects the discussions in the Council Working Group to date. It should be considered to be a working document which will undergo further amendment as the negotiations progress. The Council Working Group is scheduled to discuss this proposal again on 3 April, after which a further version of the proposal should be available. At its meeting on 8-9 March, the Council Working Group will be reviewing those parts of the second proposal concerning meat. We intend to make an updated version of the proposal available once the official report of that meeting is available.
In general, all Member States have welcomed the move toward adoption of HACCP principles, the reduction of burdens and the opportunity to remove unnecessary prescriptive measures. Detailed points, including any reservations expressed have been indicated in the proposal text without identifying the Member State concerned.
On behalf of the UK, the FSA's overall approach has been that food hygiene legislation should protect public health. It must also be of such a nature that food business operators can understand and take their proper responsibility for producing food safely. The controls proposed must be proportionate to the risks and must not impose unnecessary burdens on either food business operators or on enforcement bodies. In addition, the FSA has as one of its aims safeguarding the interests of consumers in relation to food. This includes ensuring consumers have access to foods from a wide variety of sources. To this end, hygiene legislation should not be framed in such a way that it impacts disproportionately on any given sector or size or type of business. The FSA considers that adoption of a risk-based approach to food hygiene provides a flexible and proportionate system of control which is adaptive to innovation in food production.