Food Law News - EU - 2006

Commission Memo (MEMO/06/338), 20 September 2006

ENFORCEMENT - Questions and Answers: Better Training for Safer Food

What is Better Training for Safer Food?

Better Training for Safer Food is a Commission initiative aimed at organising an EU training strategy in the areas of food and feed law, animal health and animal welfare rules and plant health rules.

What is the purpose of this initiative?

Nearly all food, feed, animal health and welfare and plant health legislation which Member States must apply is EU-based, which allows not only for a high level of consumer, animal and plant protection across the EU but also the smooth operation of the internal market for the products related to the food and feed chain. With a solid body of legislation in place, the focus is now on ensuring compliance with these rules, which in turn requires efficient and objective controls throughout the EU.

In order to achieve this, high levels of competence and expertise amongst controlling authorities are needed. Broad knowledge of different hazards that can occur in the food chain and an understanding of market mechanisms and sources from which food and feed can be obtained are vital. There is also a need for staff to be informed about problems specific to particular production, processing, conservation and distribution methods. Control staff must also be able to identify non-compliance and fraudulent practices.

Why has the Commission adopted a Communication on Better Training for Safer Food?

The Communication sets out the long-term EU training strategy for food and feed law, animal health and welfare, and plant health. It aims to provide an overview of possible options that may be used for organising training and gives its opinion on the way forward. It also looks at how to offer efficient training using the available resources in the most cost-effective way.

What is the legal basis for the initiative?

Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official food and feed controls sets down strict control requirements to ensure compliance with EU food safety legislation, and a standard approach to controls by Member State authorities. The same Regulation pinpoints training as a key factor in harmonising the development of EU and national control systems and ensuring that the controls are properly carried out. Article 51 of the Regulation states that the Commission can develop EU level training programmes.

What are the main aims of the training programmes under this initiative?

The training aims to keep control staff in Member States up-to-date with all aspects of EU law in the area of food safety and animal health, and help to ensure a uniform understanding of how these rules should be applied and checked. It will also promote a more harmonised, efficient and objective approach to the application of control systems across all Member States, which in turn will allow food businesses to compete on a level playing field.

The training programmes should also help third country staff to understand EU import requirements and the controls that must be done before goods can be exported to the EU. This should enable an increase in the trade of safe food and encourage fair trade with third countries and in particular developing countries.

Who will receive the training?

The training under the Better Training for Safer Food initiative is designed for the competent authorities of Member States involved in official control activities. It will complement, not replace, national training of control authorities.

Can authorities from non-EU states participate?

Yes. It is essential that third countries wishing to carry out trade with the EU are familiar with EU import requirements and mandatory food safety standards. There is the possibility of EU support for meeting these requirements, especially for developing countries who may encounter more difficulties in doing so. For this purpose, activities organised for Member States in the EU are open to participants from third countries. In addition, specific training sessions are also organised for third country participants on location.

Who benefits from the Better Training for Safer Food initiative?

The Better Training for Safer Food Initiative offers many benefits. Firstly, controls staff will have clearer guidelines and a better understanding of the checks they need to carry out. Businesses across the EU and elsewhere can compete on a level playing field and reap the benefits of increased trade in safe food. Third countries, particularly developing countries, should be better able to access the EU market and become more aware of the possibilities for assistance in doing so. For EU consumers, the training will mean better controls on food and feed being put on the market, which will mean greater safety standards within the food chain and more protection against health threats. Finally, animals will also benefit as the training will also focus on the EU rules for protecting their welfare.

What EU training activities have been set out for 2006 under this initiative?

A series of training programmes has been launched for 2006. They encompass a number of identified priority areas, including the following activities:

How are the training sessions currently being organised?

The launch of calls for tender was aimed at concluding contracts for the organisation and implementation of ad-hoc training projects. The contracts have been awarded to seven bodies which are responsible for the organisation of these courses. This series of training programmes runs within the framework of this stage throughout 2006.

What subjects will be covered in the EU training programmes for 2007?

As in 2006, programmes on animal welfare issues and veterinary checks in air- and seaport border inspection posts will be carried out in Member States during the course of 2007. In addition, new programmes introduced for EU Member States will cover the monitoring and control of zoonoses and application of microbiological criteria in foodstuffs, the implementation of controls on food contact materials, and the evaluation and registration of plant protection products.

For third countries, training on the development of control strategies against highly pathogenic avian influenza is to be organised. Among the countries in which such training will be carried out are Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco. In addition, training sessions on food testing will be held for laboratory staff of ASEAN countries. Courses on the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) will also take place, with a view to the possible introduction of a similar system in other regions of the world.

For more information on the initiative see:

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