Food Law News - EU - 2006

FSA Consultation Letter, 7 November 2006

ENFORCMENT - Draft European Commission guidelines on annual reports on implementation of National Control Plans

For a copy of the Draft European Commission guidelines on annual reports on implementation of National Control Plans seee: EU Draft Guidelines

The Food Standards Agency, together with Defra and the devolved Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments, is seeking views on draft European Commission guidelines on preparing annual reports on the implementation of National Control Plans (NCPs). Responses are requested by: 30 January 2007

Consultation details

Member States are required, under Regulation 882/2004 on official controls, to have NCPs in place by 1 January 2007. These must describe the control systems in place for monitoring and enforcing feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules, and plant health law. A draft NCP for the UK has recently been the subject of public consultation and the final plan is due to be published in late December. NCPs must be implemented from the beginning of 2007. Following on from that, Member States will be required to report annually on progress to the Commission, and in so doing must take account of the Commission guidelines that are currently being developed.

The Commission is aiming to adopt the guidelines via the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) in the early part of 2007. In the meantime, there is to be further discussion at Commission Working Group level during November. To help inform our position for these discussions, we should appreciate your comments as soon as possible please, but submit these by the closing date above at the latest.

EU Regulation 882/2004 on official controls

This Regulation sets out the general approach that must be taken, and the principles that must be adopted, by the authorities in EU Member States that have responsibility for monitoring and verifying compliance with, and enforcement of, the requirements of feed and food law, and with animal health and animal welfare rules (i.e. the ‘competent authorities’ responsible for organising and undertaking ‘official controls’). It also provides the legal basis for the European Commission to assess the effectiveness of national official control arrangements. Most of the provisions apply from 1 January 2006 and the others from 1 January 2007. The text of the EU Regulation may be downloaded from the European Commission’s website.

Article 41 of the Regulation requires Member States to prepare a single, integrated, 'multi-annual' (three to five year), NCP. The purpose of this is to ensure effective implementation of official controls in respect of feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules and, as appropriate, plant health law. The NCPs will also provide the basis of assessments of the performance of national control systems by the Commission's Inspection Services (the Food and Veterinary Office). Each Member State must have an NCP in place by 1 January 2007 and implement it thereafter.

Article 44 requires Member States to report annually to the Commission on the implementation NCPs and sets out the information that must be provided. The first reports are required by the end of June 2008. There is also provision for the Commission to produce guidelines on preparing reports that Member States must take account of.

UK National Control Plan

The feed and food and plant health elements of draft UK NCP have recently been the subject of public consultation. Details may be found at the link below. Comments have also been sought by Defra on the animal health and welfare elements of the plan. The different elements are now being integrated and the NCP is being finalised to take account of the responses received to these exercises.

Draft Commission guidelines

The Commission is now in the process of developing the guidelines referred to above and a copy of the current draft of these is enclosed at Appendix 1 for your comments and views. Please note that this a working document only. It may not necessarily represent the views of the Commission and the document that is presented to the SCoFCAH may differ. Further drafts may be issued before SCoFCAH consideration. If so, we will circulate these to you. We will update stakeholders through our website regarding any discussions of the guidelines by the Member States and on any other developments.

The guidelines are expected to be adopted as a Commission Decision. These guidelines are non-binding but Member States will be obliged to take account of them in preparing their annual reports. There have been some preliminary discussions between the Commission and the Member States on the principles of annual reporting on NCP implementation at Working Group level. The draft presented takes account of the views expressed.

Your views on any aspect of the draft guidelines are welcome, but we would particularly value comments on the specific issues outlined below.

Impact on the competent authorities

As a general principle, we believe that where there is a requirement for information or data to be provided in the Annual Report, the rationale behind this and the use to which the information or data is to be put by the Commission must be explicit.

Any requirements must focus on what is actually necessary for the Commission to assess the performance of national control systems. The approach taken must be flexible and proportionate and very careful assessment of the impact on the competent authorities of meeting any requirements must be made before they are included. In doing so, it is important to take account of the diversity of national control systems in the different Member States. Do you agree with this?

Synthesis and analysis of data

The draft guidelines do not make clear what is meant by a 'synthesis and analysis of data'. From the preliminary discussion, however, it appears that the Commission wishes to move away from the practice of submitting raw activity data (e.g. numbers of inspections, numbers of samples taken etc.) to an analysis or assessment of the effectiveness of the control systems and activities described in the NCP. We welcome this approach in general terms.

Feed and food controls

The Draft guidelines recognise that Member States already have systems in place for collecting monitoring data in respect of feed and food controls (as required under Directive 95/53/EEC and Directive 89/397/EEC ) and in other areas also. Member States may continue to base their assessments on this, or to develop these systems as they believe necessary. We welcome this. As regards feed and food controls in particular, this would allow the FSA to continue the work already under way to simplify current arrangements for monitoring of local authority enforcement services and to develop more outcome-based measures to assess levels of compliance with feed and food law by businesses. Do you agree with this?

Regulatory impact

Clearly, the UK will be required to report on implementation of the NCP and this will involve not only the central Government Departments (and their agencies) but also local authorities. The guidelines, however, permit reports to be based on data that is already collected. Where this option is implemented, there will be no significant new or additional burdens on the relevant authorities.

Should the UK propose to introduce any new arrangements for particular sectors, Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) will be developed and the costs and benefits of any changes to current arrangements in those sectors will be considered as part of those particular exercises. Relevant stakeholders will be consulted at that time. In view of this, we have concluded that an RIA is not necessary for the draft Commission guidelines themselves. Please let us know if you disagree and outline the reasons why (any details of the burdens envisaged and estimates of costs would also be welcome).

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