FSA Scotland Letter, 27 January 2005
The letter provides information on further developments in the area of nitrate policy and surveillance.
Outcome of recent discussion of nitrate issues in Europe
As mentioned in the previous letter of 9th December, nitrate in lettuce and spinach was discussed at the most recent Working Group on Agricultural Contaminants on 18 November 2004 . At this meeting the Commission accepted that some Member States would not be able to comply with limits for nitrate in lettuce following the end of the derogation on January 1st 2005 .
Nitrate in lettuce and spinach was further discussed at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (Section: Toxicological Safety), on 17 December 2004 . The discussion paper promised by the Commission was not available for the meeting and, as a result, little progress could be made.
At the meeting, the UK continued to support an extension to the derogation beyond January 1st. Some northern Member States supported the UK view, however, other Member States, mostly from Southern Europe , opposed the UK view and raised strong objections to extending the derogation.
In lieu of raising limits or extending the derogation, some Member States suggested that the period in which lower limits apply (presently from April to September) might be shortened (e.g. to June to August). The intended effect of this would be that more crops would be subject to the higher limits and, therefore, fewer samples would exceed the limits. However, further analysis of data from the UK Monitoring Programme and data supplied by industry shows that this course of action is highly unlikely to lead to a significant decrease in the number of UK samples exceeding the limits.
The Commission intends to hold an internal meeting in January to discuss the issue and to finalise the discussion paper. It is expected that this paper will be discussed at a future Standing Committee meeting. The discussion paper is unlikely to be agreed internally by the Commission before the next meeting of the Toxicological Safety section of the Standing Committee. If this is the case, the paper may be discussed at another section of the Committee at a later meeting. The FSA will circulate this paper for comments as soon as they receive it.
The Agency is continuing to work with the industry in lobbying the Commission to provide a solution to this situation that will ensure consumer safety while not seriously disadvantaging the UK lettuce industry.
UK Monitoring programme for lettuce and spinach
Commission Regulation No 563/2002 requires that every Member State monitor and report levels of nitrate in lettuce and spinach to the European Commission. This monitoring has been carried out by the Agency since 1996. Most years' results show that the bulk of lettuce grown in the UK would be below legal limits, if the limits had applied in the UK . The results are used to monitor the effect of the code of Good Agricultural Practice that must be applied by growers, and is also used in negotiations of limits in Brussels .
The Agency published the results of the UK Monitoring Programme from 2000-2002 on 6 September 2004 . These results can be viewed at http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsis2004branch/fsis6304. The results of the 2003 Monitoring Programme are published on the Agency's website at http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsisbranch2005/fsis7005. The analysis of samples taken during the 2004 Programme has been completed and this work will be reported shortly.
Official Food and Feed Control Legislation
You may wish to be aware of new EU official feed and food controls legislation and its application in the UK . Regulation 882/2004 was published in the Official Journal on 28 May and is now in force, although provisions will generally apply from 1 January 2006 . The purpose of this legislation is to create a more comprehensive and integrated, risk-based, EU-wide, 'farm to table' approach to official controls. The Regulation sets out general requirements for competent authorities, or enforcement authorities, that are responsible for checking that businesses comply with feed and food legislation and also animal health and welfare rules.
An update and detailed summary of progress on this legislation was published on the FSA website on the 12 November at the following address: (http://www.food.gov.uk/foodindustry/regulation/europeleg/eufoodfeedregupdate1104)