In the wake of the horsemeat scandal which rocked Europe’s food industry, the European Commission has proposed measures to tighten controls on the health of animals and plants entering the European food chain.
Tonio Borg, the health and consumer policy commissioner, today (6 May) announced a legislative package which aims to prevent the spread of communicable animal-based diseases and foreign pests to European crops.
The rules aim to ensure authorities in member states comply with the European Union food safety legislation and carry out sufficient controls. The EU executive would also require national authorities to carry out anti-fraud checks and impose strong financial penalties on food operators which committed fraud or failed to comply with the laws.
‘Smarter rules for safer food’
Borg claimed that Europe had the highest food safety standards in the world but that “the recent horsemeat scandal has shown that there is room for improvement, even if no health risk emerged.”
“Today’s package of reforms comes at an opportune moment as it shows that the system can respond to challenges; it also takes on board some of the lessons learned. In a nutshell, the package aims to provide smarter rules for safer food,” he told reporters.
In recent weeks, the EU has taken a hard line on food safety after studies showed that consumer confidence in the food industry dipped in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. Extra funding has been found in the next EU long-term budget for national food surveillance programmes, the Pesticide Action Network says.
The legislative package, following European Parliament and Council approval, will cut down existing food safety laws in five pieces of legislation to ease compliance with controls, inspections and tests.
The rules also include a prevention-based principle governing animal health in a drive to avert the mass culling of potentially-infected animals, such as in recent cases involving avian and swine flu.