Food Law News - EU - 2002

Commission Memo (MEMO/02/214), 16 October 2002

HYGIENE - Outcome of the Agri/Fisheries Council of October - Proposal on monitoring and control of zoonoses

The Council failed to reach political agreement on the proposed stricter monitoring and control of food-borne diseases (zoonoses) caused by pathogens like salmonella, listeria or e-coli. Commissioner Byrne reiterated that the number of reported food-borne infections in humans across the European Union remains far too high.

Salmonella, alone, infects over 160,000 individuals annually in the Union. It is likely the true rate of infection is much higher, as many cases go unreported. The Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health has stated that in 5% of salmonella cases serious consequences can occur, including reactive arthritis. Serious complications arise in a minority of cases, leading to the deaths of some 200 of our fellow citizens each year. Moreover, we have estimated the annual cost of food-borne salmonella at up to € 2.8 billion per year.

The need for more effective and stringent measures against food-borne zoonoses at Community level was highlighted by the majority of delegations who also agreed on the compromise package of the Danish Presidency. It foresaw as proposed by the Commission the step by step introduction of control measures (testing of flocks of poultry and pig herds) on several salmonella stereotypes against certain pre-set targets. The principle of Community co-financing up to 50% was part of the package but within the overall budget framework.

Commissioner Byrne regretted the Presidency package not be supported by a minority of Member States. Byrne said: "It is essential that such an important public health measure should not become bogged down over wrangles over who will pay." He expressed the hope that such claims for Community financial support would not betray an underlying resistance to the proposed approach. He hoped that discussions in the meantime could enable a final agreement at the November Council.

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