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Document 52000AC1000

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the 'Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive amending Council Directive 95/53/EC fixing the principles governing the organisation of official inspections in the field of animal nutrition and Council Directive 1999/29/EC on undesirable substances and products in animal nutrition'

OJ C 367, 20.12.2000, p. 11–13 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)


Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the 'Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive amending Council Directive 95/53/EC fixing the principles governing the organisation of official inspections in the field of animal nutrition and Council Directive 1999/29/EC on undesirable substances and products in animal nutrition'

Official Journal C 367 , 20/12/2000 P. 0011 - 0013

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive amending Council Directive 95/53/EC fixing the principles governing the organisation of official inspections in the field of animal nutrition and Council Directive 1999/29/EC on undesirable substances and products in animal nutrition"

(2000/C 367/03)

On 27 April 2000 the Council, acting under Article 152 of the EC Treaty, decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was instructed to prepare the Committee's work on this subject, adopted its opinion on 26 July 2000. The rapporteur was Mr Leif E. Nielsen.

At its 375th plenary session, held on 20 and 21 September 2000 (meeting of 20 September) the Committee adopted the following opinion by 101 votes with 3 abstentions.

1. Background

1.1. The purpose of Directive 95/53/EC on the principles to govern official inspections in the field of animal nutrition(1) is to harmonise the official inspections carried out by the Member States. The Directive has been in force since 1 May 1998 and contains a number of provisions regarding the carrying out of checks, cooperation between Member States, introduction of safeguard measures in the event of infringements, annual inspection programmes and communication of the relevant reports to the Commission (commencing in April 2000), besides requiring the Commission to present an overall report each year (as from October 2000) and a proposal for a recommendation concerning a coordinated Community control programme.

1.2. In 1998, following the detection of dioxin in citrus pulp imported into the EU, the Commission presented a proposal amending the Directive(2) so as to allow the Commission to conduct on-the-spot inspections both in the Member States and in third countries and, when confronted by a serious risk, to adopt a safeguard measure for products originating in third countries. In addition, the proposal makes it possible for the Commission to require the Member States to conduct specific targeted inspection programmes as back-up to the annual, general control programme.

1.3. The current proposal forms part of the follow-up programme after the May 1999 dioxin crisis and further tightens up the legislation, making it possible to monitor contamination and implement specific inspection programmes. In the light of past experience, special conditions are laid down for the approval or registration of establishments or operators handling products constituting a hazard.

1.4. More specifically, the proposal provides that:

- Member States shall set up national contingency operational plans to deal with emergencies relating to the detection of serious risks for public health, animal health or the environment from products for animal nutrition. The Commission approves these plans and their efficiency is verified by blind simulations on a regular basis;

- where a problem is likely to pose a risk to human or animal health or to the environment, the Commission shall immediately suspend - or lay down special conditions for - the putting into circulation of the relevant products in the EU or third countries. Any Member State may, within thirty days, refer the Commission's decision to the Council which, acting by a qualified majority, may take a different decision within thirty days. A Member State may adopt corresponding interim protective measures where it has called on the Commission to act without any result. In that case the matter is submitted to the Standing Committee for Feedingstuffs within ten working days for its opinion with a view to the extension, amendment or repeal of the decision;

- decontamination, reprocessing or destruction must not have harmful effects on public or animal health or on the environment. Where contamination has spread to the food chain, the relevant batches shall be traced and the necessary steps taken to prevent damage of any kind. In addition, the Commission must be notified so that it can provide the other Member States with the relevant information;

- exchange of information shall be governed by the same procedure as applies for risks connected with foodstuffs, which is based on the rapid alert system for general product safety(3). Pending revision and possible measures resulting from the White Paper on food safety, the current rapid alert system is applicable;

- further, actions taken are to be recorded in the annual report to the Commission;

- when the frequency of a certain contamination or hazard increases, the Member State is to draw up an interim report, to be sent to the Commission, and the matter will be discussed in the Standing Committee for Feedingstuffs in order to take the appropriate measures.

2. General comments

2.1. The proposal must be viewed in relation to the Commission's White Paper on food safety(4). The White Paper sets out the broad principles for food safety and gives an overview of the set of proposals which the Commission plans to present in the near future with a view to coordinated action at all stages of the food chain, from "farm to table". The overview encompasses various proposals on feedingstuffs, including the one which is the subject of this opinion.

2.2. As stated in earlier ESC opinions(5), the ESC supports the White Paper's strategy on future inspection measures, including the interrelationship between the EU and national inspection authorities, which is given tangible form in the current proposal.

2.3. As the ESC has pointed out, future control should consist first and foremost of pressing ahead with compulsory, recognised self-regulation within establishments, which can detect sources of pollution faster and more effectively than national authorities are able to do. Far greater emphasis should therefore be placed on the HACCP principle in connection with approval or certification of self-regulation by establishments as well as quality guarantees and registration of data for individual batches so that it is possible to detect sources of pollution at an earlier stage and more effectively than has so far been the case.

2.4. It can be observed that the combination of self-regulation and official inspections has not operated properly in the case of dioxin pollution and the subsequent case of sludge in animal feed. Further measures are therefore needed.

2.5. It is also a fact that the dioxin crisis was handled badly and that there was insufficient coordination between the relevant authorities. The Commission could merely take emergency measures regarding contamination likely to stem from products of animal origin. The Commission only learnt of such contamination at a very late stage, and national measures were inadequate. In connection with the detection of sludge in animal feed, no requirement or possibility existed of including such information in a Commission warning to the other Member States concerned.

2.6. Experience has therefore proved the need to improve procedures regarding safeguard measures and exchange of information between the Member States and the Commission when products do not comply with set requirements or when human and animal health or the environment are at risk. The Commission must be able to suspend trade and exports from the Member State concerned (or certain regions) and/or fix special conditions for the relevant products or substances. In the above cases, the other Member States mainly learned of the situation from the media. It is essential that such information should come through the Community system for rapid exchange of information (Rapex)(6) or a corresponding system.

2.7. The proposal illustrates the problem of matching national and EU areas of responsibility. In the ESC's view, the EU's authority in this field needs to be expanded in view of the operation of the internal market and to protect human and animal health and the environment. The proposal provides for the Commission or another Member State to act outright in emergency situations. Subsequently, the Standing Committee for Feedingstuffs can consider the matter and the decision may then be altered.

2.8. The recommended model would seem to correspond to the procedure for action in connection with the outbreak of contagious livestock diseases. Procedures should therefore preferably be the same for all forms of intervention: feedingstuffs, foodstuffs, plant health problems, environmental situations, including the marketing of dangerous substances and materials, etc. The system should also be restricted to circumstances where there is a serious risk to human and animal health or the environment, and procedures should involve as little red tape as possible. In addition, care must also be taken to ensure that inspection is sufficiently effective and to harmonise organisation of such checks in the Member States.

2.9. In the light of the above, the ESC supports the thrust of the Commission's proposal but nonetheless feels that the legal situation should be clarified. Currently there are 62 EU legislative texts relating to animal feed, with related amendments. This proliferation of rules should be codified in a more accessible form at the first opportunity, especially in the case of new legislation. The constant "offshoots" and numerous "interlocking" provisions make it difficult for national authorities and establishments to have a complete overview of the legal situation.

2.10. In connection with the case involving sludge in animal feed and the Commission proposal concerning sludge(7), the Commission should clarify the definition given of different kinds of sludge so as to avoid uncertainty regarding the term.

2.11. Under the proposal, Member States are required to draw up an interim report immediately when the frequency of a certain contamination or hazard increases; the information is then discussed in the Standing Committee for Feedingstuffs so that the appropriate measures can be taken. As mentioned above, the ESC is prepared to endorse this "alert system", provided that it does not call the underlying scientific principles into question or have an unreasonable impact on the establishments concerned in terms of bad publicity and possible misunderstandings.

2.12. In addition, in the interests of transparency, the ESC would reiterate that consolidated texts should always at least be accessible on Celex.

3. Conclusions

The ESC supports the Commission proposal, subject to the following comments:

- the procedures for Commission intervention in various fields should be harmonised as far as possible;

- legislation on feedingstuffs should be consolidated in a more transparent form;

- the definition given of different types of "sludge" should be clarified;

- important information should be exchanged through a system corresponding to the "Rapex" system;

- the "alert system" must not generate uncertainty as to the scientific or legal basis for notification of contamination or risk.

Brussels, 20 September 2000.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Beatrice Rangoni Machiavelli

(1) OJ L 265, 8.11.1995, p. 17.

(2) COM(1998) 602 final, OJ C 346, 14.11.1998.

(3) Directive 92/59/EEC on product safety, OJ L 228, 11.8.1992.

(4) COM(1999) 719, 12.1.2000.

(5) CES 361/2000, OJ C 140, 18.5.2000, CES 362/2000, OJ C 140, 18.5.2000 and CES 585/2000 OJ C 204, 18.7.2000.

(6) Article 8, Council Directive 92/59/EEC, OJ L 228, 11.8.1992.

(7) COM(1999) 654 final, OJ C 89, 28.3.1999, p. 70.