Report on meeting of Commission Working Group on food hygiene legislation: 4 and 5 September 2008
Friday 12 September 2008
The Commission expects the current raft of proposals in the course of adoption (see previous report on SCoFCAH meeting of 19 July) to complete European Parliamentary (EP) Scrutiny around 25 September and to be adopted w/c 29 September or 6 October. They will be published in the EU Official Journal shortly after.
A new unit (E5) will be operational in October in SANCO to deal with OFFC and official controls. It will be headed by the current deputy head of the SANCO legal affairs unit. The unit will be dealing with the Commission's review of charging levels and will probably have to pick up the issue of
laboratory accreditation . It will will also have a role in relation to imports issues.
The Commission Review of Hygiene Legislation is to be no more than 15 pages long (translation restrictions) and will not be accompanied by proposals for co-decision. SANCO aims to have completed its draft by the end of November 2008 for inter-institutional consultation. This will be sent to the EP and the Commission early in 2009. Member States (MS) will not be consulted on the draft before then.
There were no MS concerns about the risks of Mechanically Separated Meat.
MS were divided on the issue of more flexible deployment of Official veterinarians in slaughterhouses.
The Commission will give consideration to the requirement for accreditation of laboratories following a number of MS reporting problems in achieving this within the deadline.
The Commission will consult on the transitional arrangements (draft proposal attached) with MS further by email, with the intention that this be put to the November meeting of SCoFCAH. The Commission indicates that it will use the extended period of transition to examine the outstanding issues in relation to non-harmonisation of import controls.
MS had been sent a questionnaire prior to the meeting. A copy of this (not completed) is attached for information.
Date of next meeting: 27 October (to be confirmed)
Communication to the European Parliament and to the Council on Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM)
The Commission asked whether MS regarded MSM as a high-risk process, whether current control measures were sufficient, and whether MS planned to continue with MSM production in the future. Most MS remained silent on the issue, with some saying that they did not regard MSM as being a higher-risk process. The Commission noted contentment with current arrangements.
Following a query raised by one MS, the Commission said that it might seek to differentiate between ‘high pressure’ and ‘low pressure’ MSM, but at present it would continue using the levels of calcium in the final product as the criteria.
Report to the European Parliament and to the Council reviewing the experience gained from the implementation of the Hygiene Regulations HACCP at primary production level
There was no support for HACCP to be extended to primary production, except for one MS where it is already implemented nationally.
HACCP and small business
Discussion about possible flexibilities for small businesses, with several MS reporting that they were finding it difficult to engage SMEs with HACCP. Some MS had produced guides and there was some discussion about exemptions. However, the general view was that existing flexibilities in the hygiene legislation were sufficient.
The Commission reported that DG Enterprise had received complaints from industry that the available flexibilities were not being consistently applied by MS. However, DG Sanco regarded the existing flexibilities as being sufficient and favoured this approach over any blanket exemptions.
There was a short discussion about the registration requirement in 852/2004. The UK highlighted that food brokers were a particularly difficult issue. The Commission picked up on the point about food brokers but little interest in this issue from most MS.
Clarification of the legislation relating to cold stores, warehouses and wrapping centres was discussed. The Commission explained that the current situation arises from the use of the definition of ‘retail’ from 178/2002 (which includes ‘warehouses’), as any changes to this for hygiene
purposes would require co-decision, and such proposals were not being considered alongside this review.
Concerns raised by MS that the FVO had not taken account of national-level flexibilities and it was requested that the Commission highlighted the need to do this with the FVO.
“Marginal, local and restricted”
There was discussion around the term ‘local’, with one (smaller) MS having defined it as meaning 'the whole of the country'. The Commission’s stated position was that ‘local” should not be taken to mean a MS’s entire area, although it was noted that in very small MS this would present some difficulties.
The Commission indicated that it had no plans to harmonise a definition of ‘local’ at community level.
Request from some MS that definitions (and in particular, the definition of a ‘composite product’) were harmonised with animal health regulations. The Commission’s position was that the different legislation had different purposes and there was no reason why the definitions should
be harmonised. The Commission stressed that issues with the application to 'composites' were well understood.
Food Chain Information (FCI)
There was a discussion about the requirement to provide a slaughterhouse with FCI 24 hours in advance. MS did not report any issues with this requirement for poultry, but most MS had found the timescales difficult for other types of animal.
The Commission noted that there was significant MS support for more flexibility, and committed to return to the issue at a later date. The Commission will also consider developing a section of its website to provide links to MS websites where FCI forms are published, so that MS with cross-border trade can easily see if other MS require additional information to themselves. It was stressed that there were no plans to harmonise the form.
Trichinella (Derogations, use of Trichinoscopes)
From MS-stated positions, the use of the Trichinoscope had been largely discontinued.
Of interest was a discussion about the use of Official Vets (OVs) and Official Auxiliaries (OAs) in slaughterhouses. Mixed opinion amongst MS on the issue of increased flexibility for use of OAs.
Many MS reported problems keeping to the timescales for accrediting national laboratories, largely due to cost. The Commission felt that allowing some MS flexibility on this issue might be unfair to those MS who had managed to do so on time. The Commission will raise the issue with their colleagues responsible for Regulation 882/2004.
Proposed amendments to the guidance documents relating to the implementation of certain provisions of Regulations (EC) 852/2004 and 853/2004
A suggested revision to allow fishery products to be classed as primary products only if slaughter etc. took place on a fishing vessel.
Opposition to this from some MS, and the Commission agreed not to include this revision in the final version of the guidance, although it may return to the issue when the legislation itself is reviewed, since it seemed there might be a disparency between the legislation and how certain MS were seeking to interpret it.
General Imports Requirement
The Commission reported concerns about Article 6 of 853/2004 and Articles 12 and 15 of 854/2004. The articles required lists of establishments in third countries supplying MS, but set out variations on the requirement for fresh meat and other products. The Commission considered that there might be a further issue in relation to Bivalve Molluscs. Third countries were seeking advice and guidance on this issue.
The Commission requested that MS feedback problems arising from these articles.
Proposed Transitional Arrangements to the Hygiene Regulations
The Commission clarified that the Transitional Arrangements would extend the current arrangements from 31 December 2009 until the review of the legislation. The Commission highlighted that the comitology procedure was changing in January 2009 to include heightened monitoring and greater influence from the European Parliament, and so the intention was to agree the Transitional Arrangement by the end of 2008.
The Commission would be circulating draft recitals for the legislation shortly, with a view to putting to SCoFCAH in November. Further consultation with MS will take place by email.