Food Law News - EU - 2003

Council Press Release, 8 April 2003


The following are extracts from the report of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on the 8 April 2003

Food Hygiene

The Council took note of the progress report on the proposed Regulation laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption contained in document 7520/03 and agreed to invite the Committee of Permanent Representatives to continue to work on the dossier in the awaiting of the Opinion of the European Parliament expected in May 2003.

The main outstanding questions to be solved at a political level prior to a further agreement were addressed by Commissioner BYRNE as follows:
relationship with general control rules : the proposal contains specific rules, notably on audits and imports, applied to all products of animal origin; it will apply in addition to the proposal on official feed and food controls ;
division of responsibilities : with regard to the respective role of official veterinarians and official auxiliaries concerning specific tasks in abattoirs, Commissioner BYRNE mentioned the possibility of situations where official auxiliaries could operate without the permanent presence of the official veterinarian, on the basis of a case by case approach with an assessment of risks;
involvement of company staff in meat inspections: Commissioner BYRNE reaffirmed the primary responsibility of food business operators for the safety of their products and the possibility for them to carry out certain activities in relation to meat inspection. He noted that such controls by food business operators were already successfully applied in the poultry sector and suggested to extend to other sectors provided that safety requirements are met and that permanent supervision by an official veterinarian is ensured.

This proposal (10987/02) is an amended version of the initial proposal submitted in July 2000 by the Commission. The proposal mainly concerns official controls on fresh meat and live bivalve molluscs. Due to new scientific information, it would enable meat inspection to be organised on a basis that takes better account of hazards that threaten human health today, thus making it more science-based and risk-based. The Council heard a first state of play of the situation on this dossier
in November 2002 (14350/02).

Nitrofurans in Portugal

The Portuguese delegation drew the attention of the Council and the Commission on the action taken to detect and to deal with the illicit use of furaltadone (8167/03). The Portuguese delegation recalled that it had been implementing an Action Plan following the discovery of furaltadone in poultry and indicated that the results of the samples sent to different laboratories in Europe showed a significant decrease in the level of residues. The Portuguese delegation noted nitrofuran had not been found up to now on rabbits nor on aquaculture products and that the trust of consumers was rapidly recovering .

Commissioner BYRNE reiterated his request for all Member States to do more to monitor and to enforce Community rules on residues. He insisted on the full use by all Member States of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed in order to provide reliable information. He thanked the Member States for having sent the results of nitrofuran testing to the Commission following his request and noted that the increased number of samples collected in 2002 reflected the growing interest of the Member States in testing for nitrofurans. Furaltadone is a nitrofuran. Regulation (EC) 2377/90 prohibits the administration of such substances to food-producing animals because it is impossible to fix a safe maximum residue limit.

Geographical indications and designations of origin

The Council adopted by qualified majority, the Danish delegation voting against and the United- Kingdom delegation abstaining, a Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No 2081/92 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuff.

The initial proposal, based on Article 37 of the Treaty, was presented to the Council in March 2002. The Regulation adopted excludes from the scope of the Regulation, mineral and spring waters after a transitional period of ten years - instead of five years in the initial proposal - with a progressive phasing out. It includes new products such as mustard, pasta, wool, and wicker and set provisions for ending the coexistence between a registered designation and an identical geographical name after a fifteen years period. A possibility for producer groups to indicate in their product specifications that packaging shall take place solely in the defined geographical area has been inserted. A statement is added regarding the risk of conflict between rules for the registration of plant varieties and those relating to geographical indications and designations of origin, following a request made by the Italian delegation.

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