19 Dec 2016
COUNCIL POSITION ON AGRI-FOOD CHAIN – 19 DECEMBERBrussels Daily
Official controls along the agri-food chain: one step closer to adoption
On 19 December 2016 the Council adopted its position at first reading on revised rules to perform official controls along the agri-food chain. The Council’s position is based on the compromise agreed with the European Parliament (EP) in June 2016, and paves the way for the final adoption of the regulation by the EP at a next plenary session.
The new rules aim to improve the controlscarried out by member states to ensure the application of the Union legislation on food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, plant health, and plant protection products. It will also apply to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for feed and food production, organic farming, protected designations of origin, protected geographical indications and traditional specialities guaranteed. Additionally, marketing standards for agricultural products will be covered with respect to possible fraudulent practices.
“The new rules will help combat food fraud and scandals, thus enhancing consumer confidence. They have strong requirements on transparency and stringency of controls that will bite effectively. We want our citizens to trust our control regimes and to be reassured by the quality of what they eat”, said Gabriela Matečná, minister for agriculture and rural development of Slovakia and president of the Council.
An improved and more comprehensive single system of controls
The new system of official controls simplifies and streamlines the existing legal framework. It establishes a unique set of control rules applicable to most sectors of the agri-food chain, including for the first time plant health. The extended scope guarantees uniform enforcement across sectors, but still allows for adjustments taking into account the specific needs of individual sectors (e.g. meat inspections, animal welfare controls), or newly identified risks.
Less fraud and scandals
The member states’ authorities in charge of checking compliance with EU legislation through official controls, will have strengthened instruments at their disposal to prevent food fraud and scandals. For instance they will be able to perform regular unannounced official controls and impose deterrent financial penalties on operators committing intentional violations. To ensure consistency and resource-efficiency, the work of national competent authorities will be carried out on the basis of multi-annual national control plans and be risk-based. This means that a higher level of control will be applied to businesses and products in line with the level of risk, thereby avoiding unnecessary controls and administrative burdens.
Protection of whistle blowers
For the first time the revised rules require member states to ensure that effective mechanisms are in place to allow for reporting of potential or actual breaches of the regulation, including in particular, appropriate protection for people who report such breaches against retaliation, discrimination or other types of unfair treatment.
The agreed text require competent authorities to ensure a high level of transparency on the controls they carry out (type, number and outcome), and on the fees they collect to finance them.
Competent authorities will also have the possibility to publish the rating of individual operators based on the outcome of the controls they have carried out.
The European Parliament is expected to vote in second reading at a next plenary session, thus approving the Council’s position at first reading without amendments and completing the legislative process.
Afterwards, the legal texts will be published in the Official Journal of the EU.