Commission Press Release (IP/04/485), 15 April 2004
The 10 new Member States due to join the EU on 1 May 2004 are on course to meet the EU's food safety standards, said Commissioner David Byrne, responsible for Health and Consumer Protection today. "Major progress has been made as a result of strong collaboration between the European Commission and the competent authorities of the new Member States". Some food establishments (processing plants, dairies and abattoirs) will need some transitional time to finish upgrading their standards. During that time, their products will only be sold on the domestic market of the new Member States concerned. The EU-15 agreed today to the final list of establishments which will benefit from such an upgrading period. Additionally, the Commission made details available today on 37 new Border Inspection Posts which will start operating as of 1 May at the new borders to control incoming veterinary products from third countries.
"After 1 May consumers through the existing and new Member States will enjoy the choice of an even wider variety of food. The new Member States have made huge progress in recent months in upgrading their laws, systems and food producing factories. The EU´s food safety rules are being put in place and the local enforcement systems are up and running. This is a major achievement since the EU requirements are high," said David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. "However, the new Member States will need to continue to work hard on implementation and enforcement. My inspectors will continue to check the situation on the ground, as we do in existing Member States and third countries."
Good progress on food safety law and its implementation
By 1 May all new Member States are expected to have brought their national rules fully into line with the EU's food and veterinary laws (Chapters 1 and 7 of the Accession Negotiations). A handful of implementation issues remain and the Commission is in contact with the authorities in the new Member States concerned to resolve these ahead of enlargement.
The new Member States are also gearing up well to implement EU food safety law. They have set up national surveillance networks on food and feed safety that will link in with the EU's rapid alert system in this area. They have upgraded their food and veterinary laboratories, streamlined the organisation of their food and feed control systems, started control of GM-food, trained their inspectors, laboratory staff and also their food operators in various aspects of food law and, in general, greatly improved standards in their food processing establishments.
Transition periods for some food establishments
The new Member States' Accession Treaty, signed in April 2003, granted transition periods of up to three years to a number of food processing establishments in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia that were seen as unlikely to meet EU standards by 1 May 2004.
The proposals approved by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health representing the Member States today allow a further group of establishments in Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia to have transition periods of from three months to one year to allow the completion of upgrading work. This new group of establishments all comply with EU hygiene rules but need further time to fully comply with other relevant EU requirements.
The Member States also approved proposals to end the transitional arrangements for a number of Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian and Polish establishments named in the Accession Treaty. The establishments removed from the lists have either been brought up to EU standards ahead of time or have been closed.
In all, 1006 food processing establishments in the new Member States have been granted transition periods, roughly representing 8% of the total number of 12 000 of food processing establishments in these countries.
Those establishments granted transition periods will be allowed to continue selling food in their home Member State. However, it will not be eligible to be sold in other Member States and will be labelled to prevent this.
New border inspection posts
Maintaining high standards of food safety and animal health in the EU requires efficient controls at the EU's external borders. Food and animals can only be imported into the EU at designated border inspection posts (BIPs) that have been approved by the European Commission. In March this year the Commission approved 22 BIPs in the new Member States (OJ L 86, 24.3.2004, p.21) as meeting EU standards. The Commission intends to approve a further lists of BIPs in time for accession bringing the total number of new BIPs up to 37. Some BIPs in Italy, Austria and Germany will cease their operations.
Considerable work has been underway in the new Member States in recent months to put in place the facilities and staffing to allow more BIPs to be approved. This work is still ongoing as facilities at some locations are not yet completed. The Commission's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has already carried out many missions to inspect proposed facilities and will inspect other individual border posts once work has been completed to verify they meet EU standards. The Commission will approve further BIPs after accession on the basis of these inspections.
For further information see: http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/food/enlargement/index_en.htm and also MEMO/04/82 on "Myths and misunderstandings about food, drink and EU enlargement" (on the Commission's pages)