The Commission have first proposed that the current voluntary arrangements are extended to continue for a further year until 31.12.2000. The delay to the start of the anticipated compulsory system and its staging has been justified by the difficulties most Member States have encountered in fully implementing the required cattle identification system.
The second proposal is for a staged introduction of a compulsory system with a parallel voluntary system.
The first stage of the proposed compulsory system would require, from 1 January 2001 onwards, the compulsory labelling by all operators and organisations marketing fresh or frozen beef or veal with the following:
The proposed second stage, to take effect from 1 January 2003, would introduce compulsory indication on the label of:
Unlike the existing voluntary scheme, the proposed compulsory scheme does not appear to involve prior approval by MAFF or independent third party verification. We assume, however, that operators will need to be able to show that they have maintained a proper audit trail to substantiate the information provided.
Other labelling information on characteristics and production methods, such as breed, organic, farm assured and slaughter method, would remain subject to a voluntary scheme. The proposed voluntary scheme looks likely to be more or less in line with current arrangements save that the requirement to obtain prior approval of labelling claims from MAFF would be relaxed to a simpler system requiring only that prior notification be given. It appears that the verification requirements for voluntary claims from 2001 will continue.
We expect further definitions to be provided in detailed rules, which the Commission will propose next year.
Comments on the proposals are invited as soon as possible and no later than 6 December
See also the Commission statement on this topic: 12 October 1999.