Food Law News - EU - 1997

20 February 1997: ADMINISTRATION / BEEF - Improving food safety and beef labelling issues

Extract from "The Week in Europe", 20 February 1997

1. Lessons from BSE crisis.

The EU needs effective powers to put greater emphasis on health policy, Commission President Jacques Santer told MEPs on Tuesday in a debate on the European Parliament's inquiry into BSE. Better coordination of Member States' health policies, and the possibility of harmonisation at Community level in the field of human health, form the basis of the revised Article 129 of the EU Treaty put forward this week by the Commission to the Inter-Governmental Conference. The Commission has already taken the first steps to make the reforms needed in the wake of the BSE crisis, Santer said, with the package of food safety and health protection measures agreed last week; Commissioner Emma Bonino will bring forward proposals for further reforms.

Santer also raised questions about the future of the common agricultural policy (CAP) and the nature of agricultural production. The starting point for overhauling the CAP will be a greater focus on quality, protecting the environment, animal welfare, and a return to more natural production methods, he said. Santer also made a plea for the gradual establishment of a proper food policy which gives pride of place to consumer protection and health.

2. Agriculture Council.

The Council this week reviewed progress on Commission proposals for voluntary schemes to label beef products and to register and track bovine animals. Some Member States expressed a preference for a compulsory system, but a decision may be possible at the Council's March meeting, provided that the European Parliament has given its opinion. Commissioner Franz Fischler stressed the need for a decision to be taken swiftly and for the schemes to be implemented rapidly. A compulsory labelling system would delay implementation, he said, and the most important aspects are that the system would allow meat to be traced back to the animal of origin and provide information to consumers.

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