MEPs agree on draft rules to tighten up official food checks from farm to fork

Food safety MEPs last week informally agreed on draft plans to tighten up official food checks on food from farm to fork.

The aim of the draft plans is to guarantee that the food consumers buy and eat in Europe is safe and wholesome, hence improving consumer’s health and preventing food crises.

The legislation aims to provide a comprehensive, integrated and more effective control system in the areas of food and feed safety rules, veterinary and plant health requirements, organic production and protected geographical indication rules, according to the European Parliament.

Environment Committee Chairman Giovanni La Via said that this legislation will bring clear, common general principles to all sectors of the food chain.

“It was long overdue, as the agri-food chain becomes ever more complex. Parliament’s team, Council and the Commission worked to make controls more efficient, less bureaucratic and cheaper for operators,” he said.

He added that the aim is to protect consumers, with risk-based, more independent inspections, and to restore confidence after the recent scandals.

Meanwhile, rapporteur Karin Kadenback said that this regulation is one of the most important pieces of food safety legislation of this legislature.

It was a complex and challenging process and I am very happy that after eight months of negotiations we came to a good agreement yesterday evening with the Dutch Presidency.

She said that after the horsemeat scandal, consumers had serious questions about the traceability of food, and the integrity of the meat supply chain.

“The European Parliament strove to address these concerns and to end up with a text that allows competent authorities to effectively combat fraudulent practices.

“To this end, risk-based and unannounced controls from farm to fork in all areas covered by the Regulation, including areas where fraudulent practices do not entail any risk for the health of the consumer (like in the organic sector), are paramount to restore the consumer’s trust in the integrity of the food chain.”

The agreement negotiated between MEPs and the Dutch Presidency of the Council last week provides for:

  • A comprehensive scope, encompassing the whole agri-food chain: controls on food, feed, plant health, pesticides, animal welfare, geographical indications, organic farming.
  • Unannounced, risk-based controls in all sectors.
  • Better enforcement against fraudulent or deceptive practices.
  • Import conditions for animals and products imported from third countries.
  • European Commission controls in EU Member States and in third countries

According to MEPs, recent food fraud scandals, such as the horsemeat scandal, have shown the need for more effective action on the part of enforcement authorities to protect consumers and honest operators alike, from the risks which may arise from breaches of the rules along the food chain.

The new rules will follow a risk-based approach, thus allowing competent authorities to focus their resources on the more relevant issues (all risks considered and not only risks for health), they said.

The text will be put to a vote in the committee of permanent representatives (COREPER) on June 22, and by MEPs in the Food Safety Committee in June or September.