Food Law News - UK - 2006

FSA Consultation Letter, 27 July 2006

ENFORCEMENT - Draft UK National Control Plan

The Food Standards Agency, Defra and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations are seeking views on the feed and food elements and the plant health elements of a draft UK National Control Plan (UK NCP). Responses are requested by 20 October 2006

Consultation details

The UK NCP is being prepared in order to meet a requirement of EU Regulation 882/2004 on official controls, the overall aim of which is to improve the consistency and effectiveness of monitoring and enforcement of feed and food law and animal health and animal welfare rules within Member States and across the EU, and to provide safeguards to consumers. The main purpose of the NCP is to ensure that the UK has in place an effective system of official controls in these areas, as well as in respect of plant health law.

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 applied from 1 January 2006 while the others will apply from 1 January 2007 . Details of the provisions are set out in Annex A to the Regulatory Impact Assessment. The text of the EU regulation may be downloaded from the Commission website.

Article 41 of the regulation requires Member States to prepare a single, integrated, 'multi-annual', 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, thereafter, must keep this under review and report to the Commission on its implementation on an annual basis.

Content of the NCP

Article 42 of Regulation 882/2004 specifies the information that must be included in the NCP. These requirements are explained in more detail in Commission Guidelines (currently still in draft) which have been drawn up under Article 43 of the regulation and on which the Agency sought stakeholders' views last year. Full details of that consultation, including a summary of the responses received, can be found at the link below.

The Guidelines are expected to be presented to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health in September 2006 but the content is unlikely to change significantly from the current draft (if there are any unexpected changes that may have an impact on the UK NCP, we will consult with stakeholders and we will work with the Commission to minimise any potential burdens). A copy of the draft Guidelines is available at the link below.

In summary, Article 42, as read with the Commission Guidelines, requires that the NCP covers a period of three to five years beginning from 1 January 2007 . It should provide details of the roles and responsibilities of the different authorities and associated bodies that are involved in official controls and give an overview of how these authorities and other bodies meet the requirements set out for them in Regulation 882/2004. It should also outline how these authorities co-ordinate their activities and co-operate with each other. The strategic objectives of the NCP, and the planned official control activities (and the priorities for these) during the period of the NCP, should also be set out. Finally, the procedures for monitoring and reporting the progress of implementation of the NCP should be described.

Details of this consultation

The draft UK NCP is attached at the link below. This has been prepared jointly by the Food Standards Agency, Defra and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations. Its scope, at this stage, extends only to feed and food controls and plant health controls. The animal health and animal welfare elements are being prepared by Defra and colleagues in the Devolved Administrations. These elements will be integrated into the overall UK NCP post-consultation.

The draft aims to meet the requirements at Article 42 of Regulation 882/2004 and the Commission Guidelines as described in paragraph 7 above. Your views on whether we have achieved this, and comments on any aspect of the draft plan are welcome.

We would also value your views on the particular issues outlined below.

Planning period (Chapter 1)

It is proposed that the planning cycle for the UK NCP will be linked to that of the Government's Spending Reviews that set Departmental expenditure and define improvements in public services. Do you agree with this and the proposed planning period (2007 to 2011) for the first UK NCP? Should any other factors be taken into account in deciding the planning period? If so, what are these and why?

What we want to achieve (Chapter 2)

The overall objectives of the draft UK NCP are consistent with the aim of Regulation 882/2004 to have an effective official control system in place that provides safeguards to consumers. In addition, a number of sector specific strategic objectives are set out. Do you agree that these are appropriate and accord with the overall objectives of the plan? It should be noted that certain of these sector specific objectives have been the subject of separate consultation arrangements and our questions here are concerned only with whether these are relevant in the context of the UK NCP. Should further objectives be included?

Regulatory landscape (Chapter 3), working together (Chapter 4), and raising standards (Chapter 5)

The draft UK NCP aims to describe, in general terms, the official control arrangements in the UK and the approach taken by the regulatory authorities. It also aims to give an overview of the mechanisms in place to ensure that the various authorities involved co-ordinate their activities and work together to provide a comprehensive control system operating from ‘farm to fork'. It also aims to highlight the mechanisms in place to drive up the standards of the enforcement authorities. Are the UK arrangements adequately and correctly described? Are all the major co-ordination and co-operation mechanisms included?

Planning for the future (Chapter 6)

This chapter outlines the official control activities that are planned for the various authorities during the period of the UK NCP. Do you agree with these? Should additional activities be included and, if so, why? Again, it should be noted that some of the specific activities and priorities included at Chapter 6 are subject to separate consultation arrangements, and so we ask that any comments should reflect only on these in the context of the UK NCP.

Control activities (Appendices C-N)

The NCP seeks to provide a general description of the scope and range of normal control activities routinely undertaken by the regulatory authorities and services in the UK . This is particularly important in the feed and food sectors as this will provide the basis for the application of Article 28 of Regulation 882/2004. This Article requires that charges are made by the competent authorities to cover the costs of official controls that they carry out following the detection of infringements or non-compliance with legal requirements and where these exceed 'normal control activities'. The intention is that the provision will be used in exceptional circumstances such as major and significant feed or food incidents. The description of 'normal control activities' in the UK NCP is key so we would be grateful for your views on whether these are described adequately. Please note that application of Article 28 is being taken forward by the FSA, Defra and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations for their own areas of responsibility (although there is close liaison to ensure consistency of approach where appropriate) and separate consultations will take place, as necessary, in due course.

Copies of the following are available on this site:

See also the FSA web page on the previous consultation

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