Food Law News - EU - 2006

Commission Press Release (IP/06/1223), 20 September 2006

ENFORCEMENT - Providing better training for safer food: the Commission looks at options for the future

The European Commission has today adopted a Communication entitled “Better training for safer food”, which addresses the issue of training EU and third country officials responsible for carrying out the necessary controls to ensure food safety and consumer protection in the EU. A solid body of food safety legislation is laid down at EU level, designed to protect human, animal and plant health, and allow the smooth operation of the internal market. The Commission is now focused on ensuring the full and proper implementation of these laws. This requires well-trained, competent authorities who fully understand the legislation and are capable of checking that it is being complied with. Training those responsible officials is therefore an essential aspect in maintaining the high standard of food safety that Europeans have come to expect. The Communication adopted today lays out options for the future organisation of this training and looks at how EU training programmes should be carried out in order to achieve optimal results.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said “Good controls are a key factor in making sure that EU food law is complied with and that food and feed put on the EU market meets the high safety standards we have set. Training for the responsible officials is crucial in ensuring that the controls are carried out fully and properly, and in a uniform manner. The bottom line is that better training of the competent authorities means safer food and greater protection for consumers throughout the EU.”

Better training, better controls

The Official Food and Feed Controls Regulation 882/2004, which entered into force in January 2006, imposes strict control requirements for food and feed being placed on the EU market. It also stipulates that the control authorities must have a high level of competence and expertise. In order to establish a more harmonized approach to controls, the Regulation also provides for the Commission to organise EU level training. Among the topics identified in today’s Communication as priority areas for training are avian influenza, the treatment of animal by-products and other waste material, animal welfare (especially during epidemics), salmonella and other zoonoses, HACCP implementation, pesticide controls and EU standards for fruit, vegetables and fishery products. EU training programmes have already begun in this respect, and in 2005 some €4 million was spent training over 1 500 officials.

Better training, better imports

The Better Training for Safer Food initiative is also open to participants from third countries. The aim is to foster a better understanding of the food standards and import procedures required by the EU and to help third countries, especially developing countries, to meet these requirements. There are many benefits in providing such training to third country officials. It will reduce the burden on EU inspectors responsible for checks at the borders by improving controls at origin. Also, it will help to remove some of the obstacles that third country exporters currently encounter due to insufficient knowledge of EU rules, and allow them to ensure that their products actually do reach the EU market. Better compliance should also result in the reduction of unfair competition for these countries. This is of huge importance for many developing countries which rely heavily on food exports. As controls improve in exporting countries, the opportunity for more, diverse products to be sold in the EU will increase, thereby increasing choice for European consumers. Moreover, training developing countries is important for better food security and food safety for the consumers in these countries.

Good management for better training

The ultimate aim is to increase the number of persons who take part in the Commission’s training programmes to around 6 000 a year. A budget of around € 15M annually will be needed for that purpose. Such an undertaking will require effective and efficient management. One key idea in the Communication is entrusting the management of a training programme to an executive agency. The agency would be responsible for such tasks as selecting participants, arranging the logistics of the courses, delivering the training, following up on the results and networking with national training agencies. The Commission will further explore this possibility. Under EU legislation, the Commission must carry out a cost-benefit analysis before delegating the organisational responsibilities. Therefore, the Commission will now begin this analysis and, pending its completion, continue to organise training programmes itself on an ad hoc basis.

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