Food Law News - EU - 2001

FSA Letter, 12 April 2001

FOOD LAW/ EUROPEAN FOOD AUTHORITY - Proposed Council/EP Regulation Laying Down General Principles of Food Law and Establishing the European Food Authority (EFA)

Since the last reporting letter (dated
28 March 2001), there have been another two meetings in Brussels (28-29 March and 5 April) covering the whole of the text again. The Presidency has come up with a number of suggested drafting changes to the Commission's original text and the FSA have included their understanding of the latest position as a compilation text annexed to the letter [Note: but not found on the FSA Web site]. Please be aware that this is an unofficial consolidated text reflecting the FSA understanding of discussions in working group to date. This text will change and no element should be taken as agreed or supported by the Presidency, any Member State or the European Commission.

On Chapters I and II points of greatest interest related to the definition of 'food' (Article 2) and to traceability (original Article 9 now moved to Article 18). The definition of 'food' has been amended to include water incorporated into food during manufacture thus leaving bottled and other waters to fall under the reference to drink. The definition of 'feed' (Article 3(4)) reflects definitions throughout feed legislation and is also intended to encompass water. Member States asked a number of questions on traceability. On imported products, the Commission stated that importers would not need to know more specific details other than where imports were obtained from, i.e. the requirements of this Regulation will not extend beyond Community borders. In response to a question on Article 18 (3) the Commission undertook to consider how this applied to retailers who were unable to identify which of their customers were other businesses.

On Chapter III (the EFA) the main unresolved issues are the Authority's remit, the composition of the Management Board and the EFA's role with regard to the Rapid Alert System. The compromise text (Article 21) attempts to make it clear that the main mission of the Authority should be to provide scientific and technical support for Community legislation and policies in all fields having a direct or indirect impact on the safety of the food chain. At this stage, most Member States have reserved positions over the additional tasks that might be assigned to the Authority (e.g. animal health and welfare, plant health, non-food/feed GMOs). With regard to nutrition, it is likely that Article 22(k) will be redrafted further to clarify the relative roles of the EFA and Member States. Parts of Articles 21 and Article 39 will probably also be amended in order to clarify the remit of the EFA with regard to risk communication.

Three specific issues remain outstanding in relation to the composition of the Management Board, namely the number of members appointed, representation of different interests in the food chain and independence. Many Member States continue to request Member State representation on the Board. The UK continues to take the view that the Board should comprise the best people for the job appointed by open competition.

There was a substantial discussion on the Rapid Alert System (Articles 22, 34, 49). Several Member States remain of the view that the EFA (a risk assessment body) should not, by definition, be involved in the running of the RAS which involves management of known risks. The Commission appears to be adamant that the 'technical running' of the RAS will pass to the EFA while overall responsibility and risk management aspects will remain the Commission's responsibility. Member States also raised the question of whether the RAS in this proposal is compatible with the similar system defined in the General Product Safety Directive and the Commission explained that once this Regulation comes into force it will replace any measure set out in GPSD, with regard to food, and food will not then fall under the GPSD. There are still a number of unresolved questions on the detail of the RAS including how the EFA, the Commission and Member States would liaise during a food or feed alert.

Other discussion on points of interest relating to the operation of the EFA covered crisis management (Articles 52, 53 and 54), the Committee on Food Safety and Animal Health (Article 57) and the Scientific Committee and Scientific Panels (Article 27). With regard to crisis management the detail of crisis management procedures and the relative roles of key players (the EFA, the Commission and Member States) need to be set out clearly in the text. With regard to the Committee on Food Safety and Animal Health several Member States expressed concern over its apparent workload. In addition, questions were raised on the responsibilities of each of the Scientific Panels. The UK suggested that there should be provision for the involvement of consumers in the Scientific Panels.

As mentioned earlier, a copy of the proposal, in the form of a compilation text that reflects the FSA understanding of the latest position of the text, is included with this letter but this is an unofficial consolidated text reflecting our understanding of discussions in working group to date. This test will change and no element should be taken as agreed or supported by the Presidency, any Member State or the European Commission.

Further 'Friends' meetings are scheduled for 20 April, 4 May and 17-18 May.

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