Food Law News - UK - 2007

FSA News Item, 15 August 2007

OFFICIAL CONTROL - Revised UK National Control Plan published

The Agency and the four UK Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments have recently reviewed the UK 's National Control Plan for the period January 2007 to March 2011. A revised version is published today.

The Plan's purpose, a requirement of European Union Regulation 882/2004 on official controls, is to ensure that effective control systems are in place for monitoring and enforcing feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules, and plant health law.

Regulation 882/2004 requires that plans be kept under review and revised regularly. The first review of the UK Plan has thus been completed. No significant changes have been made as a result. However, revisions reflect organisational and legislative changes.

Additional information is provided in the following contained on a separate FSA page:

National Control Plan for the United Kingdom

The National Control Plan for the United Kingdom details the roles and responsibilities of the different authorities and associated organisations involved in the monitoring of compliance with, and enforcement of, feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules and plant health requirements.

It also provides an overview of how these authorities and other bodies work together to safeguard public, animal and plant health, to protect consumers and to promote animal welfare.

The strategic objectives and the planned activities of the various authorities for the period of the Plan are also set out.

The Agency, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland have jointly prepared the UK 's first National Control Plan. This covers the period 1 January 2007 to 31 March 2011.

About the Plan

The UK Plan meets a requirement in EU Regulation 882/2004 on official feed, food, animal health and animal welfare controls, that all Member States must have a three to five year national control plan in place by 1 January 2007. The Plan will provide the basis of assessments of the performance of the UK 's national control systems by the European Commission's inspection services.

What we want to achieve

The principal objectives of the National Control Plan are to ensure that European Community law on feed and food, on animal heath and animal welfare, and on plant health is implemented in the UK and that there are effective systems (official control systems) in place for monitoring compliance with and for enforcing the various rules. This will contribute to safeguarding public, animal and plant health, to protecting consumer interests, and to the promotion of animal welfare.

Working together

To safeguard public, animal and plant health, to protect consumers and to promote animal welfare, it is essential that the various authorities and other bodies involved in carrying out official controls co-ordinate their activities, and co-operate with each other, in order to ensure that there are no gaps, and that they collaborate effectively.

Various mechanisms have been put in place to facilitate this and for dealing with emergencies.

These include:

In the feed and food, and animal health and welfare sectors, LACORS - the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services - plays a key role. It aims to generate best practice and guidance to support local authorities in the UK and to represent them to central Government Departments and agencies.

Raising standards and sharing good practice

With any system of legal controls, the effectiveness of feed and food law and animal health and welfare rules, depends on how well the legislative requirements are monitored and enforced. In order to ensure that the competent authorities are providing an effective and consistent service, European legislation requires that their performance is audited.

In some areas, for example local authority feed and food law enforcement services, an established audit scheme is in place.

This assesses the performance of services against a defined standard and also aims to identify and spread good practice. The scheme is subject to independent scrutiny. Measures are in place to ensure transparency for relevant stakeholders.

For other authorities, audit arrangements which will follow the same principles, are being established.

Who does what

In the UK , executive responsibility for official feed and food controls is centralised. In practice, day to day responsibility is divided between central and local Government.

The central authorities are the Food Standards Agency (including the Meat Hygiene Service), DEFRA (and its agencies), and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations.

The main body of food law, however, is monitored and enforced in the UK by local authorities. This is also true for feed law in Great Britain . In Northern Ireland , this function is carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The situation is similar for animal health and animal welfare controls. Responsibility is held centrally by DEFRA and its equivalent Departments in the Devolved Administrations, with day-to-day work carried out both by the central Departments (or their agencies) and local authorities.

In the plant health sector, responsibility for controls lies with the UK Plant Health Service: a number of units from within DEFRA, plus the Forestry Commission and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations.

These various central and local Government Departments responsible for organising and undertaking official controls are called the 'competent authorities'.

They are assisted by National Reference and official laboratories, and also by a number of independent third parties ('control bodies') to which specific control tasks have been delegated

A shared agenda

For the duration of the National Control Plan, the various central and local authorities will develop and implement a shared agenda, that will help ensure that effective systems of official controls are in place in the feed and food, animal health and welfare, and plant health sectors.

The FSA's vision for enforcement is:

'Within a sound regulatory framework, maximise industry compliance which, with informed and empowered customers, will achieve improved public health and better confidence.'

During the period of the National Control Plan, the Agency will work in partnership with its enforcement, consumer, and industry stakeholders to meet the objectives of its Strategic Plan 2005 - 2010.

DEFRA and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations will also be working with their delivery partners and industry stakeholders to safeguard animal health, to promote the welfare of animals, and to manage those feed and food controls within its remit.

The various units that make up the UK Plant Health Service will continue to work together to protect the countryside and to help contribute towards sustainable farming and food.

Monitoring and reporting our progress

The UK National Control Plan will be implemented from 1 January 2007 and reviewed regularly. Progress on the implementation of the plan will be monitored on an on-going basis and an annual report will be prepared and sent to the European Commission.

The review and reporting process will be co-ordinated by the Agency in concert with DEFRA and its agencies and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments of the Devolved Administrations.

The National Control Plan will be updated as necessary and revisions published.

Reporting will be based around the strategic priorities set out in Chapter 2.

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