The EU published a package of measures in May 2013 which aims to provide a modernised and simplified approach to strengthen health and safety standards across the agri-food chain.

Five strands of proposals

The Smarter Rules for Safer Food package comprises five inter-connected proposals:

  • a recast of Council Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on Official Food and Feed Controls
  • reviews to modernise Animal Health and Welfare through the new Animal Health Regulation. Council Regulation (EU) 2016/429 can be viewed on the EUR-LEX
  • review of existing Plant Health and Plant Reproductive Material legislation leading to a new Plant Health Law.

  • a Financial Framework proposal which rationalises the existing framework for EU funding of the four other proposals

The Commission is now engaging with Member States and Expert Working Groups through formal negotiations. The Food Standards Agency is leading on the Official Food and Feed Controls proposal.

The proposals can be viewed on the DG SANCO website.

Official food and feed controls

The current legislative framework for the organisation and delivery of official controls is through Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 on which the Food Standards Agency (FSA) leads. It covers all official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules.

The European Parliament and the Council reached political agreement on the new Regulation on Official Controls in June 2016.  The Regulation is expected to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union in March 2017, enter into force in 2017 and be applicable by 2020.

The main principle behind the revision of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 was to consolidate and harmonise the approach along the entire agri-food chain. This has been achieved through; extending the scope of the Regulation to include food and feed law, animal health and welfare, plant health and animal-by products rules. The new Regulation clarifies that organics and plant protection products are within the scope of the Regulation, adds new provision to clarify that official controls must be performed in a manner that minimises the burden on businesses and provides for controls to be carried out at all stages of production, processing, distribution and use. The new Regulation has not made any substantive changes in relation to mandatory charging for the delivery of official controls.

Competent Authorities will now be required to publish, at least once a year, relevant information about the organisation and performance of official controls.

The Animal Health Law

Council Regulation 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health” entered into force in May 2016. It shall apply from April 2021.

To make the new Regulation applicable requires the European Commission to bring forward several delegated and implementing acts. These acts will clarify important details and establish elements necessary for uniform implementation and application of the rules throughout all Member States. The Commission is currently consulting with experts, Member States and other stakeholders to draft these acts.

The main effects of the new Regulation are that:

  • diseases will be listed and categorised based on an assessment of their animal and public health risk, and their impact on Union resources.
  • a number of current European legal acts will be streamlined into a single law
  • responsibilities are clarified for farmers, vets and others dealing with animals
  • the new rules permit greater use of new technologies for animal health activities - surveillance of pathogens, electronic identification and registration of animals
  • better early detection & control of animal diseases, including emerging diseases linked to climate change, will help to reduce the occurrence and effects of animal epidemics

Plant health

The EU Plant Health system governing controls against plant pests and diseases is largely unchanged since the start of the Single Market apart from imports.

The proposal builds on many of the elements of the current system with many of the policies, approaches and controls well established in the agriculture and horticulture sectors. However increased threats such as the new and emerging trades from non-EU countries and the need for them to be properly assessed before consignments are permitted entry to the EU, are driving the need for a more effective system.

The proposals are also aiming to review the present approach to establishing Protected Zones. In particular they see merit in considering how the International Plant Protection Committee (IPPC) concept of Pest Free Areas might be used as a means of improving internal controls for intra-EU trade with a view to focusing action on risks relevant to particular regions.

There is also an increasing need to improve confidence and understanding of the plant passport system for plant exports and there is support for the standardisation of procedures across the EU.

The Plant Health Regulation is expected to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union shortly.

Plant reproductive material

Plant Reproductive Material (PRM) is material of any kind of plants from seeds up to fully grown trees used for the production of other plants. The review and simplification of the EU framework on PRM has proposed simplifying twelve existing Directives into one over-arching Regulation.

The review intends to simplify and update the PRM legislation. It aims to provide growers/end users with assurance on the productivity, health and quality of plant reproductive material, either in the form of seeds or other types of propagation material marketed for the production and/or reproduction of plants.

Consolidating the 12 current Directives into a single Regulation is a complex challenge. During European Parliament and Council working group negotiations it became evident that agreement on the draft proposals would not be imminently achievable. Consequently the European Commission suspended work on this aspect of the package and will redraft and revisit it in the future.

The Financial Framework

Council Regulation (EU) No 652/2014 laying down provisions for the management of expenditure relating to the food chain, animal health and animal welfare, and relating to plant health and plant reproductive material” entered into force in July 2014 and has applied from  July 2016. The Regulation is a consolidation of financial provisions in a number of pieces of EU legislation. It establishes objectives for the implementation of funded programmes and provides a framework that is responsive to new and emerging challenges such as a new animal health disease.

The Regulation provides funding to co-finance surveillance and control programmes in the following areas:-

  • animal health - veterinary surveillance/eradication programmes and emergency control measures
  • plant health - protection of plant health and ensuring healthy plant reproductive material, emergency control measures and support for programmes in "outermost regions" of the EU
  • support for official controls - focusing on "Better Training for Safer Food" to promote a harmonised approach and the network of EU Reference Laboratories to provide scientific and technical expertise on animal health, public health and zootechnics

The funding is in line with the provisions of the Financial Regulation and links to the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 negotiations in relation to the overall EU budget.

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