Food Law News - EU - 1998

9 November 1998: EU/USA RELATIONS - Transatlantic Economic Partnership

General Affairs Council Minutes, 9 November 1998

Transatlantic Economic Partnership

The Council adopted an Action Plan relating to the Transatlantic Econoimc Partnership. It included the following section:

3.5 Agriculture: Food Safety, plant and animal health and biotechnology

While in many areas formal or informal structures for cooperation already exist, there is scope, in certain cases, to deepen existing dialogue, in order to identify and resolve trade frictions related to regulatory processes.

3.5.1. Food safety, plant and animal health

(a) To ensure that conflicts should not arise through lack of dialogue at an early enough stage in the legislative/regulatory process to permit each side to express its view on planned initiatives of the other, we envisage a system of early warning.

The US side has recently created an interagency food safety contact point in USTR, which is informed weekly by the relevant agencies of any potential new development in this area. A similar contact point will be established in the Commission, which will gather the equivalent information weekly; the two contact points will communicate regularly in order to keep officials informed of food safety developments in the other's pipeline, to facilitate the flow of information on, and reciprocal input in, such potential initiatives and where relevant to facilitate objective dialogue between scientific experts on the two sides.

(b) In view of the important role of the control and inspection services of each side, and the need for a common understanding of that role, we will work towards an arrangement under which US and EC officials from the respective scientific and technical agencies would participate in exchange programmes to become more familiar with their counterparts' respective food safety systems regarding inspection and control procedures.

(c) In the interests of safety and transparency, the EU and the US will develop ways for enforcement agencies to cooperate on dangerous food products. We are also reviewing the possibility that the US and the Community rapid alert systems regarding dangerous food be interconnected.

(d) A more structured dialogue in the area of plant health will be established.

(e) We are also examining the possibility of closer coordination in other related areas such as pesticides (in the US) and vitamins and minerals (in the EC).

(f) Given the growing role of Risk Assessment in the preparation of food safety legislation/regulations, at the domestic as well as at the international level, the EU is developing a common methodology and criteria for risk assessment in the field of food borne diseases, in particular regarding microbial contamination.

We will examine the possibility of establishing a link between the American Risk Assessment Consortium and the European side in order to exchange information, views and scientific comments about development of new risk assessment methodology. A proactive relationship in this area would avoid misunderstanding and would boost the scientific risk assessment approach in different international organisations such as Codex Alimentarius.

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