Consultation with Stakeholders
Copies of the proposals, the FSA consultation letter to interested parties and a summary of the comments received can be found on the FSA website at:
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. The major points made by various stakeholder groups are summarised in Annex A given below.
Negotiations: Swedish Presidency
Under Swedish Presidency, the Council Working Group looked again at the first proposal on the hygiene of foodstuffs, building on the work undertaken during the French Presidency. A text, prepared by the Council Secretariat which indicates the changes suggested to the original proposal together with the comments made by the delegations is at:
www.foodstandards.gov.uk/pdf_files/eufdhygleg_prop1.pdf (pdf file).
References to individual delegations have been removed. This document has not yet been discussed by the Council Working Group and therefore should not be regarded as an agreed report of proceedings.
The Council Working Group also completed a first consideration of those aspects of the proposal on specific rules applicable to products of animal origin dealing with red meat, poultry meat, game and meat products. The Swedish Presidency prepared a drafting suggestion to reflect the discussions within the full Council Working Group and the Drafting Group which considered the text. This is at:
www.foodstandards.gov.uk/pdf_files/eufdhygleg_prop2.pdf (pdf file).
Again, references to individual delegations have been removed. This document has also not yet been discussed by the Council Working Group.
Negotiations: Belgian Presidency
Under Belgian Presidency, the Council Working Group will continue its discussion of the proposal on specific rules applicable to products of animal origin, beginning with the sections concerning live bivalve molluscs and fishery products. The Presidency hopes to complete an initial assessment of these remaining sections by the middle of October; it is not yet clear how they intend to take work forward thereafter.
Comments and feedback
The FSA would be pleased to have any comments or feedback on this update or on the latest versions of the proposal.
ANNEX A The following stakeholder groups have significant interests in the proposals.
This is an exceptionally broad spread of interests. Whereas previously because the legislation was drawn up along sector-specific lines it was possible to approach each sector separately and consider their concerns in isolation, the adoption of a horizontal approach means that a number of common issues across all sectors need to be pursued. The comments summarised below should be recognised as initial views, which stakeholders would expect to revise as negotiations progress and more information is obtained about the Commission's intentions in the proposals.
Consumer groups have generally welcomed the Hygiene Regulation proposals with regard to farm to fork/HACCP-based approach/risk assessment/improved standards/traceability and simplification. They have, however, indicated their concerns about any proposals involving what they see as a shift towards self-regulation with a lessening of the responsibilities of enforcement authorities. Concerns have also been expressed that the implementation of HACCP-based systems should not constitute such a burden on small businesses that they are unable to operate, thereby restricting consumer choice. A further theme likely to be pursued is of prior approval of all food premises, especially catering premises.
This grouping represents the most diverse group of stakeholders and summarising their disparate concerns is not easy. There is widespread support for the concept of simplifying the legislation and removing the inconsistencies which have developed in the different sectors. There is a general belief that the proposals do not go far enough and that, if a HACCP-based approach is adopted, more prescriptive control could be removed than the Commission has proposed. The multi-national based companies in particular welcome the legislation being in the form of a Regulation which should promote more consistent legislation throughout the Community.
Most of the major manufacturers (particularly those supplying the major supermarkets) are already using HACCP-based systems, often in addition to the current legislative requirements. There is thus a general level support for the introduction of a HACCP-based approach. Most concern has however been expressed for and on behalf of small businesses who fear that the documentation requirements will overwhelm them and may deflect them from the proper business of producing food safely.
Other key issues concern the proposal for the mandatory registration of food premises and traceability of produce through the food chain. It is likely that this latter requirement may be amended to take account of the traceability provisions in the proposal for the general principles of food law. Concerns have however been expressed at the way in which a traceability requirement can be made to work and what the implications will therefore be for the application of the health mark for products of animal origin. Large companies in particular, who already operate sophisticated arrangements for both traceability and withdrawal of products are concerned that the proposed legislation should not cut across these arrangements to no beneficial effect. At the other end of the spectrum, small producers are worried what the burden of additional record keeping might be for them.
Another group constituting a broad spectrum of opinion. The main players already use the HACCP system in full. There has been welcome for the inclusion of supermarket distribution depots within the definition of "retail trade". Smaller retailers are thought less likely to be familiar with the principles of hazard analysis. Considerable effort would need to be given to assisting them to implement the legislation. It is felt that useful lessons can be learnt from the introduction of licensing for butchers and the need for training and the use of generic material.
Local authorities have generally welcomed the extension of a HACCP-based approach and risk assessment to all areas of food production, and the prospect of simplified and consistent legislation to enforce. They have considerable concerns about the resource implications of auditing HACCP-based systems, not least from the need to train or retrain their own personnel. Concerns have also been expressed about the amount of time they will need to spend in advising premises about the new requirements as opposed to taking enforcement action. There would also be concerns if it were proposed to extend the scope of registration or approval beyond what they currently undertake. In addition, it will not be possible to gain a fully-rounded picture of the enforcement role until the Commission has published its proposal on the control of food and feedingstuffs.
Public health interest groups
Public health bodies support the simplification of the legislation and the introduction of a fully documented HACCP-based system to food businesses. As with others, concerns have been expressed about the practical issues of introducing the system to small businesses and the need has been stressed for a proper implementation strategy. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) regrets that the opportunity has not been taken to impose mandatory licensing of all food premises. The need for training in HACCP and auditing will be seen as opportunities for business and influence.
Organisations representing farmers have given the proposals a guarded welcome. There is a general acceptance that a farm to fork approach to food hygiene is right. The use of a risk-based approach is supported as is the approach not to use a HACCP-based system on farm. There is welcome to the role which guides to good practice will play and on the part of the NFU, a particular welcome for what they perceive as the role to be played by farm assured schemes.
There is considerable concern over the extent to which farms would be required to register as food businesses and what the impact might be of the proposals on traceability and the requirements to keep records. A particular issue for farmers and landowners is their support of small and medium sized abattoirs and de-regulation. They would seem pre-disposed to favour the proposals in principle, and especially those that offer some room for national flexibility for 'local' or 'traditional' producers.