Report of Commission Working Group on Hygiene Legislation held on 23 January 2009
Tuesday 10 February 2009
Details of the meeting and relevant documents.
- Proposed amendments to the Hygiene Regulations
Most of this reflection paper and associated comitology amendments were covered by the Commission. Varying degrees of support from Member States (MSs) for the changes suggested. Item to be discussed in depth at next meeting.
- Availability of pepsin for trichinella testing
MSs reported varying degrees of concern about this issue. MSs will respond to questionnaire by 5 February.
- Possible modification to allow the use of alternative tests for marine biotoxins
Issue to be taken forward when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion is available.
- Marine biotoxins in cooked molluscs
Commission restated its view about what limits applied. This will also be reconsidered in the light of EFSA’s opinion.
- Food chain information and listing of EU approved establishments
- Guidance documents to Regulations 852/2004 and 853/2004
Changes made to these documents in response to legal services to be put to 16 February SCoFCAH to seek consensus.
- Discussions relating to import controls
The Commission reported that discussions in relation to import controls are still continuing within the Commission and at high level. Further information could be provided at the next Commission Working Group.
- Date of next meeting:
SCoFCAH: 16 February
Commission Working Group: 2 March
Relevant documents attached at the foot of the page.
Agenda item 1: Proposed amendments to the hygiene regulations (Commission reflection paper and draft amendments to Regulations 853/2004 and 854/2004 (docs SANCO 4449/2009 and SANCO 4456/2009))
The Commission thanked MSs that had sent comments on the previous reflections paper. Certain areas identified as needing a legislative solution had been carried forward to the two draft proposals. Initial views were sought on the proposals on why legislation might not be appropriate, and more detailed consideration will be given at the next meeting.
No proposal produced by Commission as need for legislative change was inconclusive. In discussion, some MS repeated their earlier views on this issue. The Commission concluded that as positions had not fundamentally changed, they will reflect further and discuss at the next meeting.
Food chain information
MS are still divided over this proposal, although generally supported. The Commission agreed to reflect further on this.
Provisions on blood for human consumption
The Commission asked MS for to comment on the need for articulating hygiene objectives for obtaining blood and on controls for species other than domestic ungulates (i.e. poultry). Various views were raised by MS. The Commission indicated that it would come forward with proposals.
Provisions relating to the storage of poultry
The Commission explained the wording in the draft proposal for aligning the requirements for poultry meat with those of red meat. Some concerns were raised by MS, but the Commission disagreed as that would depart from the stated aim of alignment with the red meat requirements.
Wild game meat
Discussion was curtailed on this topic by the need to close the meeting (fisheries items having been taken out of sequence). The Commission explained that the Czech Republic had convened a conference on 23-24 April which might be a useful forum for discussing these issues more broadly and generate possible solutions.
Contaminants in LBMs
The MS that had originally suggested this, indicated that it could accept the Commission analysis that no further legislation was necessary.
Packages of LBMs for retail
This was acceptable to MS, once it was clarified that jute sacks were held to comply with the proposed requirement and that it did not preclude customers being sold small numbers of LBMs if they so wished.
Sales of Pectinidae
It was confirmed that the proposed amendment reflected the original request for clarification from the MS concerned.
Extension to other LBMS and marine gastropods of the Pectinidae regime
There were three broad areas under consideration by the Commission (as described in the reflections paper) but with no forthcoming proposals. The first concerned clarification on the logic of extending the requirements. The Commission expressed some reservation in relation to the risk from such products, referencing a problem encountered in one MS. It was possible to consider Pectinidae as different because only the adductor muscle was consumed. A compromise might be constructed in relation to distant fisheries being subject to controls on phytotoxins but not E. col. The Commission undertook to consider further.
The Commission invited further comment on the status of gastropods in the light of the paper produced by one MS, who referred to the problems it would experience given the ubiquity of whelks and periwinkles if it were required to classify the waters from which these might be gathered. Given the knowledge of the feeding habits, mobility and the fact gastropods were cooked before eating, it was suggested that the risks could best be controlled by treating them like crustaceans, and requiring them to be tested at first point of sale. The Commission indicated that it would look to reflect this in revised proposals.
In relation to the third point, one MS had only recently submitted information concerning whether Pectinidae fishing grounds needed to be classified. The Commission agreed with the difference between the grounds being adjacent to already classified areas or if they were some distance offshore. It undertook to take a proposal to the next meeting.
Fishery products – extent of primary production
The Commission reminded MSs of the history to this and the difficulty in trying to explain in the guidance material what controls extended to fish farming and what was included within the concept of primary production 'and associated operations' when the legislation did not reflect what some MSs said was actually happening. The proposal in doc SANCO 4449/2009 was intended to regularise the position. MSs had been asked to comment on what was actually happening at fish farms and outstanding information on this was still welcome. The Commission noted the divergent views expressed. In response to a question from one MS on why it was not proposed to extend the same approach to activities on board fishing vessels, the Commission explained that this had not previously been supported by a clear majority of the MSs. It undertook to reflect further and indicated it might need further information before confirming its view.
Status of fishery products to which additives have been added
The Commission explained this proposal was intended to deal with the issue that if fresh fishery products had preservatives added to them (in line with the relevant legislation), they ceased to meet the definition of fresh fishery products and might therefore fall outside the hygiene requirements laid down - wording to address this had been proposed. A number of MS expressed concerns, not least that it might mean a departure from using ice for preservation. The Commission pointed out that the addition of preservatives would, as necessary, be controlled under additives legislation. The issue was to clarify that the hygiene rules still applied by introducing a definition comparable to that for 'meat preparation'. It was suggested that the wording might be amended to read:
'Where fresh fishery products have had food additives added to them to ensure preservation in accordance with the appropriate legislation, the requirements imposed on fresh fishery products continue to apply.'
Transport of fishery products in cooled water
The Commission gave an explanation concerning current practices with cooled water, but stressed that it needed to have better information. One MS commented that the use of cooled water could best be explained in guidance. The Commission requested that MSs send in more details about what was happening in their territories.
Fishery products in brine
The Commission reported on problems that had arisen over the change from the former hygiene directives to the current regulations, where different language versions of the requirements had inhibited a lack of clarity about what was precisely required. The particular problems of vessels operating in tropical waters was raised, the Commission undertook to consider and to talk to its lawyers about how to resolve a potential linguistic problem.
The Commission reported on how document 4449/2009 embodied the outcomes from the December Working Group meeting on parasites, and that this was done in the knowledge that an EFSA opinion on allergic reaction to Anisakis and on alternative methods for killing viable parasites was needed before the proposal could progress further. One MS expressed dismay at the proposal being produced in advance of those opinions, but was assured by the Commission that there would be no attempt to progress in the absence of the opinions.
Agenda item 3a: Availability of pepsin for the purposes of testing for trichinella
The Commission referred to the discussion in January 2009 SCoFCAH, as a result the Commission had tabled a series of questions. All MSs were asked to send in written responses to these by 5 February. Since the SCoFCAH meeting, a number of MS had been able to check the level of stocks at NRL, individual laboratory level, and for the most part these were adequate (albeit varying levels of stocks of pepsin were held). Information was given about where stocks were sourced from. Some MSs reported increased prices (up to double previous level). Little use of liquid pepsin had been reported by MSs.
The Commission attempted to start a discussion about points made in SCoFCAH about the use of alternative methods, reminding the meeting that the serological method was not suitable for other than monitoring. One MS reiterated the point about the value of contingency planning founded on a risk-based surveillance programme. The recent EFSA report highlighted that millions of samples were taken in the Community with extremely low numbers of positives (<0.01%).
Agenda items 3c and 3d: Information on a possible modification of the use of alternative tests for marine biotoxins and on the establishment of possible limits for marine biotoxins in cooked molluscs
The Commission explained that these were not covered in the reflections paper. EFSA opinions had been sought and should be available by the end of May, after which it would be possible to reflect on the need for legislative change. In relation to toxins in cooked molluscs, EFSA had been asked to give guidance but were signalling that the same limit as for uncooked product was appropriate.
One MS expressed its gratitude for the progress made on alternative tests and looked forward to further progress. It did not share the Commission view in relation to levels for cooked molluscs. Another MS was grateful for the efforts that had been made, especially in relation to lipophilic toxins. It raised the particular issue of development of purified standards. A further MS referred to the work it had undertaken on PSP toxins and offered to share that with the Commission and the other MS. It was now possible to quantify all toxins in virtually all commercially viable species from this MS. Progress was being made on lipophilic toxins, but there were issues with the availability of purified standards.
In response, the Commission responded to a suggestion from one MS for the need for a symposium, by reminding the Group of the CRL meeting in April. It might also be possible to take advantage of the conference being organised in Nantes by IFREMER. It took note of the comments made in relation to toxin levels in cooked molluscs and referred to the letter from M Poudelet to CVOs that contained an interim solution, pending final resolution with benefit of EFSA opinion.
Agenda item 4: AOB – Guidance documents (sanco/1731/2008 rev 6 and sanco/1732/2008 rev 6)
The Commission circulated further revisions of the Commission guidance on Regulations 852/2004 and 853/2004. The former included the revised wording suggested by one MS in relation to the extent of food business premises. Other changes to both guides had been made to reflect the view of legal services. For the most part these had deleted the quotation from the Articles of the Treaty concerning intra-Community trade in products subject to national rules, since it was not considered appropriate to cite such binding legislation in a guidance document. The drafts will be put to 16 February SCoFCAH to gain a consensus view.