Category Archives: Food safety: general provisions

The current food safety policy is based on a series of principles established or updated at the beginning of the 2000s. These principles, applied in line with the integrated approach ‘From the Farm to the Fork’ specifically include transparency, risk analysis and prevention, the protection of consumer interests and the free circulation of safe and high-quality products within the internal market and with third countries. A certain number of bodies, in particular, the European Food Safety Authority, are responsible for helping to guarantee food safety. Research is also an important element of the food safety policy.

GENERAL PROVISIONS
Food and feed safety
The precautionary principle
Improving communication on agricultural product quality
Ecolabel
Production and labelling of organic products
Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan
Training of food safety control authorities
Geographical Indications and Designations of OriginArchives
Traditional specialities guaranteedArchives
Green Paper on agricultural product qualityArchives
INSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS
Veterinary and phytosanitary inspections
Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health
Assistance and cooperation with scientific examination
Executive Agency for Health and Consumers

Veterinary and phytosanitary inspections

Veterinary and phytosanitary inspections

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Veterinary and phytosanitary inspections

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Veterinary and phytosanitary inspections

In March 1996, the British Government published research results pointing to a possible link between BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease in humans. This triggered a deep crisis of confidence in the safety of the food offered to European consumers.

As a result of this crisis, the Commission decided to restructure its safety protection and food hygiene departments by separating the departments responsible for drawing up legislation, scientific consultation and inspection and by improving the transparency and dissemination of information.

At the heart of this restructuring, announced by President Santer in his address to the European Parliament in February 1997, were:

  • the creation of eight committees to replace the scientific committees dealing with consumer health protection and a scientific steering committee, concerned mainly with the multidisciplinary aspects of BSE. The competences of five of these committees (those dealing with food, veterinary and phytosanitary issues) were transferred in 2003 to the European Food Safety Authority;
  • the transformation of the Community Office for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Inspection and Control, attached to the Directorate-General for Agriculture, into a Food and Veterinary Office attached to the Directorate-General for Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection.

The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO)

The FVO is responsible for monitoring Member States’ and third countries’ compliance with Community veterinary, phytosanitary and food hygiene legislation, thus helping to maintain consumer confidence in the safety of food products. To this end, the FVO performs audits, controls and inspections in situ to check whether the safety and food hygiene regulations are being observed along the entire production chain, either in Member States themselves or in countries which export to the EU. It then passes on its findings and recommendations to the national and Community authorities and the general public.

The FVO performs its monitoring function in accordance with the principles of independence, transparency and excellence. In concrete terms, the inspections and audits it carries out relate to:

  • foodstuffs of animal origin, for which it examines monitoring systems in the Member States, the use of chemicals (veterinary medicinal products, growth stimulants, pesticides) and imported products;
  • foodstuffs of vegetable origin, in particular pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables and organic fruit and vegetables, including imported products;
  • animal health, notably epidemics (e.g. swine fever);
  • animal welfare and zootechnics (transport, slaughtering, etc.);
  • plant health (monitoring of organisms harmful to plants, genetically modified organisms, pesticides, organic agriculture).

During its first year, the FVO performed more than two hundred inspections in Member States and third countries.

 

Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Internal market > Businesses in the internal market > Intellectual property

Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

This Regulation establishes the rules for protecting designations of origin and geographical indications for agricultural products and foodstuffs intended for human consumption.

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 of 20 March 2006 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs [See amending act(s)].

Summary

This Regulation sets out provisions on agricultural products and foodstuffs (excluding all wine-sector products, except wine vinegar) from a defined geographical area. If there is a link between the characteristics of certain products and their geographical origin, they may qualify for either a protected geographical indication (PGI)* or a protected designation of origin (PDO)*. The use of corresponding EU symbols on the labels of such products provides consumers with clear and concise information on their origin. The introduction of these two terms also benefits the rural economy, since it boosts farmers’ income and maintains the population in less favoured or remote areas.

Designation of origin and geographical indication

The two types of geographical description are different. A PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) covers the term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how (such as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana). A PGI indicates a link with the area in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation (such as Turrón de Alicante). The link with the area is therefore stronger for PDOs.

Names that have become generic, i.e. those that, although linked to the place or region where the product was initially produced or sold, denote the common name of a product in the EU (such as Dijon mustard) may not be registered.

Names that conflict with the name of a plant variety or an animal breed and as a result are likely to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product may not be registered.

A name wholly or partially homonymous with that of a name already registered under this Regulation must only be registered with due regard for local and traditional usage and the actual risk of confusion.

A PDO or PGI may not be registered where the reputation and the length of time it has been used are liable to mislead the consumer as to the true identity of the product.

Product specification

In order to obtain a PDO or PGI, agricultural products or foodstuffs must comply with the product specification, which must include the following aspects:

  • the name of the PDO or PGI;
  • the description of the product, with an indication of its main physical, chemical, microbiological and organoleptic properties;
  • definition of the geographical area;
  • information proving that the product originates from that area;
  • information justifying the link between the product and the geographical area;
  • description of the production method and, if appropriate, the authentic and unvarying local methods as well as information concerning packaging that takes place in the defined geographical area in order to safeguard quality, ensure the origin or ensure control;
  • the name and address of authorities or bodies that verify compliance with the provisions contained in the product specification;
  • any specific labelling rule for the product in question;
  • any requirements laid down by Community or national provisions.

Application for registration

Applications for registration may only be made by a group of producers or processors or, in exceptional cases, natural or legal persons. If the application concerns a cross-border area, it may be made jointly by several groups.

The application for registration must include:

  • the name and address of the applicant group;
  • the product specification;
  • a single document setting out the main aspects of the product specification and a description of the link between the product and its geographical area of origin.

Applications are made to the Member State on whose territory the geographical area is situated. The Member State examines it and initiates a national objection procedure, ensuring that the application is sufficiently publicised and allowing a reasonable period within which any natural or legal person having a legitimate interest and established or resident on its territory may lodge an objection. Where the Member State deems the application to be acceptable, it forwards the single document to the Commission together with a declaration stating that all the necessary conditions have been met.

Where an application for registration concerns a geographical area in a third country, it has to be sent to the Commission either directly or through the authorities of that country.

Examination by the Commission

The Commission checks that the application is justified and that it meets all the necessary conditions. This check must be carried out within twelve months. Each month, the Commission publishes the list of the names for which registration applications have been submitted. If the conditions are met, it publishes in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) the single document and the publication reference of the product specification. If the conditions are not met, the Commission will reject the application for registration.

Objections

Within six months from the date of publication in the OJ, any Member State, third country, natural or legal person having a legitimate interest may object to the registration proposed by lodging a duly substantiated statement. Proof must be given that either the product specification fails to meet the required conditions, or that the name conflicts with a trade mark or agricultural product or that it has become a generic name.

Where the Commission receives no admissible objection, it will register the name.

Where the Commission judges that an objection is admissible, it invites the interested parties to engage in the appropriate consultations. If they reach an agreement within six months, they notify the Commission of all the factors that enabled that agreement to be reached, including the opinions of the applicant and the objector. If no agreement is reached, the Commission takes a decision, bearing in mind traditional fair practice and the actual likelihood of confusion.

Names, indications and symbols

A registered name may be used by any operator marketing products conforming to the corresponding specification. The terms “protected designation of origin” and “protected geographical indication” or the associated EU symbols must be included on the labelling of products originating in the EU and may be included on those originating in third countries and sold under these designations.

Amending the product specification

A group may request the product specification to be amended to take into account technical or scientific developments or to revise the definition of the geographical area. Applications for amendments are made in accordance with procedures similar to those for registering a designation.

Official controls

Controls on the requirements set out in this Regulation are carried out under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. Verification of compliance of a product with its product specification may be ensured by one or more public authorities set up for this purpose or by one or more product certification bodies. For EU designations, the costs of such verification are to be borne by the operators subject to those controls.

Cancellation

If the Commission deems that compliance with the conditions laid down in the product specification for a protected designation is no longer ensured or if any natural or legal person with a legitimate interest requests cancellation of the registration, the Commission may initiate the procedure to cancel a registration.

Protection

Registered names are protected against:

  • any misuse, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the product is indicated or if the protected name is translated or accompanied by an expression such as “style”, “type”, “method”, “as produced in”, “imitation” or similar;
  • any other false or misleading indication as to the provenance, origin, nature or essential qualities of the product, on the inner or outer packaging, advertising material or documents relating to the product concerned, and the packing of the product in a container liable to convey a false impression as to its origin;
  • any other practice liable to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product;
  • commercial use of a registered name in respect of products not covered by the registration if they are comparable to the products registered under that name or if this use exploits the reputation of the protected name.

Relations between trade marks, designations of origin and geographical indications

Where a PDO or a PGI is registered, applications to register trade marks corresponding to one of the above situations and relating to the same class of product are refused if they are submitted after the date of submission of the registration application to the Commission.

In certain cases specified in the Regulation, a trade mark may co-exist with a geographical indication or a designation of origin.

Committee procedure

The Commission is assisted by the Standing Committee on Protected Geographical Indications and Protected Designations of Origin.

Fees

Member States may charge a fee to cover their costs, including those incurred in scrutinising applications for registration, statements of objection, applications for amendments and requests for cancellations under this Regulation.

Key terms used in the act
  • Geographical Indication: is linked to the name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country, used to describe an agricultural product or a foodstuff:
    – originating in that region, specific place or country, an
    – which possesses a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to that geographical origin, and
    – the production and/or processing and/or preparation of which take place in the defined geographical area.
  • >Designation of origin: is linked to the name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country, used to describe an agricultural product or a foodstuff:
    – originating in that region, specific place or country, and
    – the quality or characteristics of which are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors, and
    – the production, processing and preparation of which take place in the defined geographical area

References

Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 510/2006

31.3.2006

OJ L 93, 31.3.2006

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006

1.1.2007

OJ L 363, 20.12.2006

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

MODIFICATION OF THE ANNEXES

Annex I – Foodstuffs covered in Article 1, paragraph 1

Regulation (EC) n° 417/2008 [Official Journal L 125 of 9.5.2008];

Annex II – Agricultural products covered in Article 1, paragraph 1
Regulation (EC) n° 417/2008 [Official Journal L 125 of 9.5.2008].

Related Acts

Detailed implementing rules

Regulation(EC) No 1898/2006 [Official Journal L 369 of 23.12.2006].
The above Regulation contains detailed rules for the application of Regulation (EC) No 510/2006. It sets out the specific rules applicable to groups, names, raw materials and the labelling of agricultural products. It also contains a template of the single document to be included in applications for registration, a reproduction of Community indications and symbols and templates for amending and cancelling geographical indications and designations of origin.
Modified by:

Regulation (EC) n° 628/2008 [Official Journal L 173 of 3.7.2008].

Expert groups

Commission Decision 2007/71/EC of 20 December 2006 [Official Journal L 32 of 6.2.2007].
The above decision sets up a scientific group of experts for designations of origin, geographical indications and traditional specialities guaranteed.

Traditional specialities

Regulation (EC) No 509/2006 [Official Journal L 93 of 31.3.2006].
The above Regulation sets out the requirements for agricultural products and foodstuffs to qualify as traditional specialities guaranteed. The Commission registers as traditional specialities guaranteed all agricultural products and foodstuffs that comply with certain specifications concerning their composition or method of production.
Applications for registration may be submitted only by groups of producers or processors of the agricultural product concerned. Applications must contain a product specification with the name, detailed description of the product, minimum requirements and the necessary control procedures. If after scrutiny, which may take up to 12 months, the Commission approves the application, the product specification and details on the producers group and the competent authority are published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Only producers that comply with the product specification are authorised to use the label certifying that the product is a traditional speciality guaranteed.

Labelling and presentation of foodstuffs

Directive 2000/13/EC [Official Journal L 109 of 6.5.2000].
The above Directive concerns the labelling of foodstuffs supplied to the ultimate consumer and certain aspects relating to presentation and advertising. It sets out methods for labelling and the name under which products are sold and specifies the methods for listing the ingredients used to produce or prepare the product in question. According to the Directive, the ingredients should be designated by their specific name and listed starting with the ingredient which is present in the largest quantity in the product. The particulars provided on the labelling of foodstuffs must appear in a language easily understood by the consumer. To this end, Member States must ensure that trade in foodstuffs in their country complies with these rules and that national legislation is in line with EU legislation.
See consolidated version .


Another Normative about Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic

Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

This Regulation establishes the rules for protecting designations of origin and geographical indications for agricultural products and foodstuffs intended for human consumption.

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 of 20 March 2006 on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs [See amending act(s)].

Summary

This Regulation sets out provisions on agricultural products and foodstuffs (excluding all wine-sector products, except wine vinegar) from a defined geographical area. If there is a link between the characteristics of certain products and their geographical origin, they may qualify for either a protected geographical indication (PGI)* or a protected designation of origin (PDO)*. The use of corresponding EU symbols on the labels of such products provides consumers with clear and concise information on their origin. The introduction of these two terms also benefits the rural economy, since it boosts farmers’ income and maintains the population in less favoured or remote areas.

Designation of origin and geographical indication

The two types of geographical description are different. A PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) covers the term used to describe foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how (such as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana). A PGI indicates a link with the area in at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation (such as Turrón de Alicante). The link with the area is therefore stronger for PDOs.

Names that have become generic, i.e. those that, although linked to the place or region where the product was initially produced or sold, denote the common name of a product in the EU (such as Dijon mustard) may not be registered.

Names that conflict with the name of a plant variety or an animal breed and as a result are likely to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product may not be registered.

A name wholly or partially homonymous with that of a name already registered under this Regulation must only be registered with due regard for local and traditional usage and the actual risk of confusion.

A PDO or PGI may not be registered where the reputation and the length of time it has been used are liable to mislead the consumer as to the true identity of the product.

Product specification

In order to obtain a PDO or PGI, agricultural products or foodstuffs must comply with the product specification, which must include the following aspects:

  • the name of the PDO or PGI;
  • the description of the product, with an indication of its main physical, chemical, microbiological and organoleptic properties;
  • definition of the geographical area;
  • information proving that the product originates from that area;
  • information justifying the link between the product and the geographical area;
  • description of the production method and, if appropriate, the authentic and unvarying local methods as well as information concerning packaging that takes place in the defined geographical area in order to safeguard quality, ensure the origin or ensure control;
  • the name and address of authorities or bodies that verify compliance with the provisions contained in the product specification;
  • any specific labelling rule for the product in question;
  • any requirements laid down by Community or national provisions.

Application for registration

Applications for registration may only be made by a group of producers or processors or, in exceptional cases, natural or legal persons. If the application concerns a cross-border area, it may be made jointly by several groups.

The application for registration must include:

  • the name and address of the applicant group;
  • the product specification;
  • a single document setting out the main aspects of the product specification and a description of the link between the product and its geographical area of origin.

Applications are made to the Member State on whose territory the geographical area is situated. The Member State examines it and initiates a national objection procedure, ensuring that the application is sufficiently publicised and allowing a reasonable period within which any natural or legal person having a legitimate interest and established or resident on its territory may lodge an objection. Where the Member State deems the application to be acceptable, it forwards the single document to the Commission together with a declaration stating that all the necessary conditions have been met.

Where an application for registration concerns a geographical area in a third country, it has to be sent to the Commission either directly or through the authorities of that country.

Examination by the Commission

The Commission checks that the application is justified and that it meets all the necessary conditions. This check must be carried out within twelve months. Each month, the Commission publishes the list of the names for which registration applications have been submitted. If the conditions are met, it publishes in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJ) the single document and the publication reference of the product specification. If the conditions are not met, the Commission will reject the application for registration.

Objections

Within six months from the date of publication in the OJ, any Member State, third country, natural or legal person having a legitimate interest may object to the registration proposed by lodging a duly substantiated statement. Proof must be given that either the product specification fails to meet the required conditions, or that the name conflicts with a trade mark or agricultural product or that it has become a generic name.

Where the Commission receives no admissible objection, it will register the name.

Where the Commission judges that an objection is admissible, it invites the interested parties to engage in the appropriate consultations. If they reach an agreement within six months, they notify the Commission of all the factors that enabled that agreement to be reached, including the opinions of the applicant and the objector. If no agreement is reached, the Commission takes a decision, bearing in mind traditional fair practice and the actual likelihood of confusion.

Names, indications and symbols

A registered name may be used by any operator marketing products conforming to the corresponding specification. The terms “protected designation of origin” and “protected geographical indication” or the associated EU symbols must be included on the labelling of products originating in the EU and may be included on those originating in third countries and sold under these designations.

Amending the product specification

A group may request the product specification to be amended to take into account technical or scientific developments or to revise the definition of the geographical area. Applications for amendments are made in accordance with procedures similar to those for registering a designation.

Official controls

Controls on the requirements set out in this Regulation are carried out under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. Verification of compliance of a product with its product specification may be ensured by one or more public authorities set up for this purpose or by one or more product certification bodies. For EU designations, the costs of such verification are to be borne by the operators subject to those controls.

Cancellation

If the Commission deems that compliance with the conditions laid down in the product specification for a protected designation is no longer ensured or if any natural or legal person with a legitimate interest requests cancellation of the registration, the Commission may initiate the procedure to cancel a registration.

Protection

Registered names are protected against:

  • any misuse, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the product is indicated or if the protected name is translated or accompanied by an expression such as “style”, “type”, “method”, “as produced in”, “imitation” or similar;
  • any other false or misleading indication as to the provenance, origin, nature or essential qualities of the product, on the inner or outer packaging, advertising material or documents relating to the product concerned, and the packing of the product in a container liable to convey a false impression as to its origin;
  • any other practice liable to mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product;
  • commercial use of a registered name in respect of products not covered by the registration if they are comparable to the products registered under that name or if this use exploits the reputation of the protected name.

Relations between trade marks, designations of origin and geographical indications

Where a PDO or a PGI is registered, applications to register trade marks corresponding to one of the above situations and relating to the same class of product are refused if they are submitted after the date of submission of the registration application to the Commission.

In certain cases specified in the Regulation, a trade mark may co-exist with a geographical indication or a designation of origin.

Committee procedure

The Commission is assisted by the Standing Committee on Protected Geographical Indications and Protected Designations of Origin.

Fees

Member States may charge a fee to cover their costs, including those incurred in scrutinising applications for registration, statements of objection, applications for amendments and requests for cancellations under this Regulation.

Key terms used in the act
  • Geographical Indication: is linked to the name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country, used to describe an agricultural product or a foodstuff:
    – originating in that region, specific place or country, an
    – which possesses a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to that geographical origin, and
    – the production and/or processing and/or preparation of which take place in the defined geographical area.
  • >Designation of origin: is linked to the name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country, used to describe an agricultural product or a foodstuff:
    – originating in that region, specific place or country, and
    – the quality or characteristics of which are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors, and
    – the production, processing and preparation of which take place in the defined geographical area

References

Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 510/2006

31.3.2006

OJ L 93, 31.3.2006


Amending act(s)
Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006

1.1.2007

OJ L 363, 20.12.2006

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated versionis for reference purposes only.

MODIFICATION OF THE ANNEXES

Annex I – Foodstuffs covered in Article 1, paragraph 1


Regulation (EC) n° 417/2008 [Official Journal L 125 of 9.5.2008];

Annex II – Agricultural products covered in Article 1, paragraph 1
Regulation (EC) n° 417/2008 [Official Journal L 125 of 9.5.2008].

Related Acts

Detailed implementing rules

Regulation(EC) No 1898/2006 [Official Journal L 369 of 23.12.2006].
The above Regulation contains detailed rules for the application of Regulation (EC) No 510/2006. It sets out the specific rules applicable to groups, names, raw materials and the labelling of agricultural products. It also contains a template of the single document to be included in applications for registration, a reproduction of Community indications and symbols and templates for amending and cancelling geographical indications and designations of origin.
Modified by:

Regulation (EC) n° 628/2008 [Official Journal L 173 of 3.7.2008].

Expert groups

Commission Decision 2007/71/EC of 20 December 2006 [Official Journal L 32 of 6.2.2007].
The above decision sets up a scientific group of experts for designations of origin, geographical indications and traditional specialities guaranteed.

Traditional specialities

Regulation (EC) No 509/2006 [Official Journal L 93 of 31.3.2006].
The above Regulation sets out the requirements for agricultural products and foodstuffs to qualify as traditional specialities guaranteed. The Commission registers as traditional specialities guaranteed all agricultural products and foodstuffs that comply with certain specifications concerning their composition or method of production.
Applications for registration may be submitted only by groups of producers or processors of the agricultural product concerned. Applications must contain a product specification with the name, detailed description of the product, minimum requirements and the necessary control procedures. If after scrutiny, which may take up to 12 months, the Commission approves the application, the product specification and details on the producers group and the competent authority are published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Only producers that comply with the product specification are authorised to use the label certifying that the product is a traditional speciality guaranteed.

Labelling and presentation of foodstuffs

Directive 2000/13/EC [Official Journal L 109 of 6.5.2000].
The above Directive concerns the labelling of foodstuffs supplied to the ultimate consumer and certain aspects relating to presentation and advertising. It sets out methods for labelling and the name under which products are sold and specifies the methods for listing the ingredients used to produce or prepare the product in question. According to the Directive, the ingredients should be designated by their specific name and listed starting with the ingredient which is present in the largest quantity in the product. The particulars provided on the labelling of foodstuffs must appear in a language easily understood by the consumer. To this end, Member States must ensure that trade in foodstuffs in their country complies with these rules and that national legislation is in line with EU legislation.
See consolidated version .

Green Paper on agricultural product quality

Green Paper on agricultural product quality

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green Paper on agricultural product quality

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Green Paper on agricultural product quality

The aim of this consultation is to ensure a strategic and regulatory framework for the protection of agricultural products and to promote their quality. In this respect, the Commission intends to open a wide discussion on the existing instruments, on how they could be improved and on new initiatives which could be considered. Three areas are being reviewed: farming requirements and marketing standards, existing quality schemes and certification schemes.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 15 October 2008 on agricultural product quality [COM(2008) 641 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Quality is the European farmers’ most potent weapon in facing competition from emerging countries. In Europe the quality of agricultural products rests on the highest levels of safety guaranteed by Community legislation throughout the whole of the food chain and on other aspects (methods and location of production, etc.).

Quality issues related to food safety which are already covered by other Community actions on nutritional labelling or animal welfare do not form part of this consultation.

Production requirements and marketing standards

Food produced in the European Union (EU) adheres to a range of farming requirements. The aim of these requirements is to ensure that all products placed on the market comply with hygiene and safety standards and also respond to a number of environmental, ethical, social, etc. concerns. Many of these farming requirements -those not referring to product hygiene and safety – do not necessarily apply in respect of imported foodstuffs. However, European consumers cannot distinguish between products which adhere to these standards and those which do not. In order to better inform consumers, it is important to ask stakeholders about the possibility of creating a symbol which indicates that a product has been produced in compliance with certain production rules or on the need to indicate the place of production (EU/Non-EU) of primary products.

European marketing standards replace the different national standards. Their aim is to help farmers to offer quality products which meet consumer expectations and facilitate price comparison fordifferent qualities of product. For the majority of agricultural products, they will take the form of regulations that lay down definitions of products, minimum product standards, product categories and labelling requirements. As part of the consultation, stakeholders are asked about the need to define and impose compulsory elements (farming requirements, quality classifications, etc.), reserved terms (term ‘farmhouse’, ‘mountain product’) at the European level and on the need to simplify the current marketing standards.

European quality schemes

The system of geographical indications ensures the protection of intellectual property. This system includes Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) which describe the characteristics (PDO) or the reputation (PGI) of a product which are connected to their geographical area of origin. For consumers, geographical indications guarantee authentic, quality products which meet their expectations. To benefit from a PDO, all stages of production should, in principle, have taken place in the geographical area of origin. In the case of a PGI only one stage of production will suffice (this is the case with spirits in particular). The Green Paper aims to identify the necessary means to improve and develop the system of geographical indications as well as to protect this system in third countries.

The system of Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) was created in 1992. The TSGs are agricultural products or foodstuffs that have traditional composition or that are produced using traditional raw materials or traditional methods of production. Since its creation, only 20 TSGs have been registered under this system. This relatively low number raises the question whether a better means of identifying and promoting traditional specialities exists.

Since the adoption of Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on the production and labelling of organic products, the main challenge has been to create an internal market for organic food. At present the market for organic food functions essentially along national lines. It is important, therefore, to consider possibilities which would enable the creation of a genuine single market for organic food at the EU level.

The system aimed at promoting quality products originating from the outermost regions rests on the introduction of a logo. To obtain this logo, producers must adhere to a number of requirements defined in compliance with Community regulations or in their absence, international regulations. To what extent could trade organisations, following the example of Spain and France, adopt additional specific requirements aimed at improving the quality of regional products and increasing the volume of quality agricultural products originating from the outermost regions of the EU?

Should other systems emerge, for example to identify products of ‘high-nature value’ or ‘mountain’ products?

Quality certification schemes

For consumers, food quality certification schemes offer additional guarantees that the label claim can be relied on. These schemes concern not only compliance with compulsory production standards, but also requirements such as environmental protection, animal welfare, fair trade, religious or cultural considerations, farming methods, product origin, etc. These requirements have led to a multitude of certification schemes and quality labels which sometimes give rise to concerns about the transparency of the requirements of the systems in question, the reliability of the claims and the fairness of commercial relations. The Green Paper opens the debate on how to protect the consumer and avoid additional constraints and costs for producers.

Context

The Commission invites all organisations and citizens who have an interest in the quality of agricultural products to submit their contributions before 31 December 2008. These contributions will form a basis for developing a Communication (Commission document establishing strategic guidelines) which should be published in May 2009.

Improving communication on agricultural product quality

Improving communication on agricultural product quality

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Improving communication on agricultural product quality

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Improving communication on agricultural product quality

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on agricultural product quality policy [COM(2009) 234 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

In this Communication, the Commission defines strategic orientations to improve, in the medium term, communication between farmers, buyers and consumers as regards agricultural product quality, to harmonise European Union (EU) rules on the quality of these products and to improve and simplify existing schemes and labels.

Marketing standards

Marketing standards guarantee fair competition and avoid the consumer being misled as to the characteristics of products. There are four types of information contained in current marketing standards:

  • a basic definition of the product identity (for example the definition of ‘butter’, ‘fruit juice’, etc.);
  • product classification (for example the minimum fat content of ‘semi-skimmed milk’ or ‘large’, ‘medium’ and ‘small’ classes of eggs, etc.);
  • reserved terms bestowing added value upon the product (for example what constitutes ‘first cold pressed’ olive oil or ‘traditional method’ sparkling wine, etc.);
  • labelling requirements concerning the origin or place of farming.

In the future, the Commission plans to:

  • establish a general basic standard. This would cover those matters where a voluntary approach might distort the internal market or where compulsory labelling is necessary to provide consumers with basic information about products;
  • extend labelling systems identifying the place of farming to products other than those which are covered at this time;
  • examine the feasibility of laying down optional reserved terms for ‘product of mountain farming’ and ‘traditional product’. The term ‘traditional product’ could replace the current system of ‘traditional specialities guaranteed’ which has not reached its full potential; and
  • contribute to developing international standards.

Geographical indications

Geographical indication schemes encourage high quality farming, safeguard protected names from unauthorised use and imitation, and help consumers by providing them with information about products’ specific attributes. At this time, there are three schemes (for wines, for spirit drinks, and for agricultural products and foodstuffs) and two instruments: the PDO (protected designation of origin) and the PGI (protected geographical indication).

After the consultation, the Commission plans to:

  • create a single register bringing together the three existing systems (wines, spirits, and agricultural products and foodstuffs), while preserving the specificities of each system; and
  • enhance the protection of geographical indications at international level.

Organic farming

Community legislation on organic farming was amended in 2007 as part of the 2004 action plan for organic farming.

In order to foster trade in organic products, the Commission:

  • has created a logo that will be mandatory for all organic products from 2010;
  • will work with third countries towards recognition for organic farming standards;
  • will contribute to improving the directives of the
    Codex Alimentarius
    on organic farming.

Certification schemes

National or private food quality certification schemes provide a guarantee that agricultural products comply with mandatory farming standards and meet requirements concerning the protection of the environment, animal welfare, etc., defined in the scheme’s specifications. However, they may confuse consumers and engender administrative costs and costs for farmers.

The Commission will establish, in consultation with the Advisory Group on Quality, good practice guidelines for private certification schemes in order to limit these drawbacks.

Context

This Communication is based on the consultation relating to the Green Paper on agricultural product quality published in October 2008, and on the High Level Conference organised on the same theme by the Czech presidency in March 2009.

The strategic orientations set out in this Communication offer a logical framework for the future policy on agricultural product quality. Comments from the other institutions but also from stakeholders will help to further refine and clarify these suggestions.

Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health

Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health

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Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health

Document or Iniciative

Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety [See amending acts].

Summary

In order to improve the procedures relating to food safety, this Regulation establishes the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, hereinafter referred to as the “Committee”. It replaces the following existing committees: the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs, the Standing Committee on Animal Nutrition and the Standing Veterinary Committee. It also takes over certain tasks of the Standing Committee on Plant Health (see the heading “Background”).

Organisation

The Committee is made up of representatives of the Member States and is chaired by a representative of the Commission.

The Committee is divided into eight sections in order to cover all subjects concerned. These sections are as follows:

  • General Food Law;
  • Biological Safety of the Food Chain;
  • Toxicological Safety of the Food Chain;
  • Controls and Import Conditions;
  • Animal Nutrition;
  • Genetically Modified Food and Feed and Environmental Risk;
  • Animal Health and Animal Welfare;
  • Phytopharmaceuticals.

Tasks

The Committee is a regulatory committee. The Commission may adopt the implementing measures only if they obtain a favourable opinion from the committee, given by a qualified majority of the Member States. Failing that, the proposed measure is referred to the Council, which takes a decision by a qualified majority. However, if the Council fails to reach a decision, the Commission adopts the implementing measure unless the Council opposes it by a qualified majority.

Article 53 of this Regulation provides for an emergency procedure to allow the Committee to intervene by taking certain measures. For example, in emergencies the Commission may provisionally adopt measures after consulting the Member States concerned and informing the other Member States. As soon as possible, and at most within ten working days, the measures taken are confirmed, amended, revoked or extended in accordance with the regulatory procedure explained above, and the reasons for the Commission’s decision are made public without delay.

The Committee may also examine any issue falling under Community provisions, either at the initiative of the Chairman or at the written request of one of its members.

The Committee’s mandate covers the entire food supply chain, ranging from animal health issues on the farm to the product that arrives on the consumer’s table, thus significantly enhancing its ability to target risks to health wherever they arise in the production of our food.

The food crises of recent years have shown the need to improve food safety procedures. It is for this reason that this Regulation was adopted, so as to ensure a high level of protection of human health and consumers’ interests, whilst ensuring the effective functioning of the internal market by laying down the general principles of food law at Community and national levels, by establishing the European Food Safety Authority and by laying down procedures in matters of food safety.

Background

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health takes over the competence of the Standing Committee on Plant Health in relation to:

  • plant protection products (Directive 91/414/EEC);
  • the fixing of maximum levels for pesticide residues in and on fruit and vegetables (Directive 76/895/EEC), cereals (Directive 86/362/EEC), foodstuffs of animal origin (Directive 86/363/EEC), certain products of plant origin, including fruit and vegetables (Directive 90/642/EEC).

For further information please consult the website on the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 [adoption: codecision COD/2000/0286] 21.02.2002
01.01 2005 (Articles 11, 12, 14 to 20)
Date of appointment of the Scientific Committee and the Scientific Panels (Articles 29, 56, 57, 60 and 62 paragraph 1)
OJ L 31 of 01.02.2002
Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1642/2003 01.10.2003 OJ L 245 of 29.09.2003
Regulation (EC) No 575/2006 28.4.2006 OJ L 100 of 8.4.2006

Related Acts

Commission Decision 2004/613/EC of 6 August 2004 concerning the creation of an advisory group on the food chain and animal and plant health [Official Journal L 275, 25.08.2004].
This decision reorganises the existing advisory committees. The group’s responsibilities lie in the areas of food and feed safety, food and feed labelling and presentation, human nutrition, and animal health and welfare.
The maximum number of members is 45, representing European-level bodies involved in the protection of interests in the above fields.
The group meets twice a year at the premises of the Commission and whenever the Commission considers a meeting necessary.

Food safety: general provisions

Food safety: general provisions

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Food safety: general provisions

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Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Food safety: general provisions

The current food safety policy is based on a series of principles established or updated at the beginning of the 2000s. These principles, applied in line with the integrated approach ‘From the Farm to the Fork’ specifically include transparency, risk analysis and prevention, the protection of consumer interests and the free circulation of safe and high-quality products within the internal market and with third countries. A certain number of bodies, in particular, the European Food Safety Authority, are responsible for helping to guarantee food safety. Research is also an important element of the food safety policy.

GENERAL PROVISIONS

  • Food and feed safety
  • The precautionary principle
  • Improving communication on agricultural product quality
  • Ecolabel
  • Production and labelling of organic products
  • Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan
  • Training of food safety control authorities
  • Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin
  • Traditional specialities guaranteed
  • Green Paper on agricultural product quality

INSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS

  • Veterinary and phytosanitary inspections
  • Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health
  • Assistance and cooperation with scientific examination
  • Executive Agency for Health and Consumers

Assistance and cooperation with scientific examination

Assistance and cooperation with scientific examination

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Assistance and cooperation with scientific examination

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Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Assistance and cooperation with scientific examination

Improve cooperation between the scientific bodies of the Member States and the Commission with a view to lending the Commission the assistance it needs in scientific questions relating to food, notably in the field of public health.

2) Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 93/5/EEC of 25 February 1993 on assistance and cooperation to the Commission by the Member States in the scientific examination of questions relating to food [Official Journal L 52 of 04.03.1993].

Amended by:

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003 [Official Journal L 284 of 31.10.2003].

3) Summary

The cooperation provided for in this Directive applies when a Council act requires the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food and, under certain circumstances, when other problems relating to the protection of the health and safety of persons arise from the consumption of food.

Member States are required to take the necessary measures, including financial measures, to enable their competent authorities and bodies to cooperate with the Commission and lend it the scientific assistance it needs in such fields as medicine, toxicology, biology, microbiology, biotechnology, novel foods and processes, methods of analysis, risk assessment techniques, physics and chemistry.

Member States are required to designate the authorities or bodies which will be responsible for cooperation with the Commission. This authority must send to the Commission a list of the institutes participating in the cooperation procedure in its jurisdiction, to which it will distribute the assessment and scientific research tasks to be performed. The Commission may also have recourse to third-country institutes.

The measures needed to implement and foster cooperation (rules for the administrative management of the cooperation, inventory of tasks and priorities, presentation and appraisal of dossiers, etc.) are adopted by the Commission with the aid of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

Act Date
of entry into force
Final date for implementation in the Member States
Directive 93/5/EEC 05.03.1993 01.06.1993
Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003 20.11.2003

4) Implementing Measures

Administrative management

Commission Decision 94/458/EC of 29 June 1994 on the administrative management of cooperation in the scientific examination of questions relating to food [Official journal L 189 of 23.07.1994].
This decision lays down the rules governing the administrative management of cooperation between the Member States and the Commission in the scientific examination of questions relating to food.

Tasks covered by cooperation

Commission Decision 94/652/EC of 20 September 1994 establishing the inventory and distribution of tasks to be undertaken within the framework of cooperation by Member States in the scientific examination of questions relating to food [Official Journal L 253 of 29.09.1994]
This decision is amended by the following Decisions:

Decision 2000/669/EC
Official Journal L 279 of 01.11.2000
Decision 2001/773/EC – Official Journal L 290 of 07.11.2001
Decision 2002/916/EC – Official Journal L 279 of 23.11.2002

These decisions update the distribution of tasks set out in the Annex to Decision 94/652/EC, having regard to :

  • the scientific expertise and resources available within scientific institutes of the Member States taking part in the scientific cooperation;
  • the need for the protection of public health within the Community;
  • the requirements of Community foodstuffs legislation.

Accordingly, they identify the tasks for which cooperation is needed (for example, preparing reports, collecting data, keeping an archive, etc.), specify the Member States involved in the cooperation, designate one or more Member States as coordinators of the tasks identified and lay down the time limits for completing these tasks.

List of national competent authorities

Official Journal C 246 of 02.09.1994
Official Journal C 104 of 25.04.1995
Official Journal C 232 of 10.08.1996
Official Journal C 356 of 22.11.1997
Official Journal C 170 of 17.06.1999

These lists indicate the national authorities designated by the Member States to be responsible, with the Commission, for cooperation in the scientific examination of questions relating to food.

5) Follow-Up Work

The precautionary principle

The precautionary principle

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The precautionary principle

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

The precautionary principle

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 2 February 2000 on the precautionary principle [COM(2000) 1 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The precautionary principle is detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU). It aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk. However, in practice, the scope of this principle is far wider and also covers consumer policy, European legislation concerning food and human, animal and plant health.

This Communication establishes common guidelines on the application of the precautionary principle.

The definition of the principle shall also have a positive impact at international level, so as to ensure an appropriate level of environmental and health protection in international negotiations. It has been recognised by various international agreements, notably in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS) concluded in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Recourse to the precautionary principle

According to the Commission the precautionary principle may be invoked when a phenomenon, product or process may have a dangerous effect, identified by a scientific and objective evaluation, if this evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty.

Recourse to the principle belongs in the general framework of risk analysis (which, besides risk evaluation, includes risk management and risk communication), and more particularly in the context of risk management which corresponds to the decision-making phase.

The Commission stresses that the precautionary principle may only be invoked in the event of a potential risk and that it can never justify arbitrary decisions.

The precautionary principle may only be invoked when the three preliminary conditions are met:

  • identification of potentially adverse effects;
  • evaluation of the scientific data available;
  • the extent of scientific uncertainty.

Precautionary measures

The authorities responsible for risk management may decide to act or not to act, depending on the level of risk. If the risk is high, several categories of measures can be adopted. This may involve proportionate legal acts, financing of research programmes, public information measures, etc.

Common guidelines

The precautionary principle shall be informed by three specific principles:

  • the fullest possible scientific evaluation, the determination, as far as possible, of the degree of scientific uncertainty;
  • a risk evaluation and an evaluation of the potential consequences of inaction;
  • the participation of all interested parties in the study of precautionary measures, once the results of the scientific evaluation and/or the risk evaluation are available.

In addition, the general principles of risk management remain applicable when the precautionary principle is invoked. These are the following five principles:

  • proportionality between the measures taken and the chosen level of protection;
  • non-discrimination in application of the measures;
  • consistency of the measures with similar measures already taken in similar situations or using similar approaches;
  • examination of the benefits and costs of action or lack of action;
  • review of the measures in the light of scientific developments.

The burden of proof

In most cases, European consumers and the associations which represent them must demonstrate the danger associated with a procedure or a product placed on the market, except for medicines, pesticides and food additives.

However, in the case of an action being taken under the precautionary principle, the producer, manufacturer or importer may be required to prove the absence of danger. This possibility shall be examined on a case-by-case basis. It cannot be extended generally to all products and procedures placed on the market.

Executive Agency for Health and Consumers

Executive Agency for Health and Consumers

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Executive Agency for Health and Consumers

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Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Executive Agency for Health and Consumers

Document or Iniciative

Commission Decision 2008/544/EC of 20 June 2008 amending Decision 2004/858/EC in order to transform the “Executive Agency for the Public Health Programme” into the “Executive Agency for Health and Consumers”.

Summary

The Executive Agency for Health and Consumers was established on 20 June 2008 under Regulation 58/2003 laying down the statute for European Union executive agencies. It replaces the Executive Agency for the Public Health Programme (PHEA). It was established in Luxembourg for the period 1 January 2005 until 21 December 2015.

The Agency is responsible for implementing the programmes of Community action in the field of health 2003-2008 and 2008-2013, the programme of Community action in the field of Consumer policy for 2007-2013 and food safety training measures, with regard to the legislation on foodstuffs, animal feeds, animal health and animal welfare, as well as plant health rules.

The detailed tasks of the Agency were defined in the Commission decision delegating authority to the Agency adopted on 9 September 2008. Its general mission is to:

  • manage and supervise the life cycle of the projects;
  • adopt the instruments of budget implementation and implement the programmes and measures;
  • produce reports to help the Commission evaluate the programmes and measures.

Function and management

Management of the Agency is provided by a Steering Committee of 5 members and a director. The Commission shall appoint them for a renewable term of office for two years and four years respectively. The Agency is accountable to the Commission for the programmes’ performance.

Finance

For its running costs the Agency receives subsidies entered in the general budget of the European Communities. They are distributed from the funds allocated to the Public Health Programme 2008-2013, the Consumer Programme 2007-2014 and the food safety training measures.

References

Act Entry into force Transposition into the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2008/544/EC

20.6.2008

OJ L 173 of 3.7.2008

Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan

Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Food safety > Food safety: general provisions

Sustainable Consumption, Production and Industry Action Plan

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 25 June 2008 on the ‘Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy Action Plan’ [COM(2008) 397 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Commission proposes the implementation of a series of measures to improve the energy and environmental performance of products throughout their life cycle, and to stimulate demand and consumption of better quality products, thus creating a ‘virtuous circle’.

These targets may be reached by:

  • extending the scope of the Directive on ecodesign, which for the moment only applies to energy-using products, to all energy-related products or those products which have an impact on energy consumption during their use (window frames, water-using devices etc.);
  • extending the scope of the Energy Labelling Directive to cover a wider range of products;
  • revising the Ecolabel Regulation to simplify and streamline the process of obtaining an ecolabel, and to extend the product coverage;
  • promoting green public procurement, by providing guidance and tools for public authorities to “green” their procurement practices;
  • implementing incentive measures aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of the retail sector and its supply chain, promote more sustainable products, and better inform consumers.

Leaner production

There is already a regulatory framework for production processes concerning environmental emissions from industries and the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme, in particular. The Commission considers however that there is a need to give further impetus to environmentally friendly production processes and energy savings. In this context, the Commission intends to act in three areas:

  • increase efficient use of resources (creating more value while using less resources);
  • support eco-innovation;
  • enhance the environmental potential of industry, by revising the EMAS Regulation (Community eco-management and audit scheme), by preparing industrial policies for environmental industries and by helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to fully exploit business opportunities in the field of environment and energy.

Acting on a global scale

Action will also be undertaken at a global level:

  • promote good practice internationally in sustainable production and consumption;
  • promote international trade in environmentally friendly goods and services;
  • promote sector-based agreements in international negotiations on climate change.

Context

The action plan forms part of the European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development and the Community Lisbon Programme for 2008-2010 of which one of the main orientations is the promotion of an industrial policy geared towards more sustainable consumption and production. The Commission will review progress and report on the implementation of the initiatives proposed in 2012.