Europe is to roll out a string of new food safety measures in a bid to avoid a repeat of the contamination of food and feed in the aftermath of the German pork and egg dioxin scandal 10 months ago.
The European Commission announced Friday that member states had finally agreed a four-point plan to toughen up regulations following the incident that led to dioxin-tainted animal feed contaminating poultry and pig farms in Germany.
The rules, which are expected to come into force in mid-2012, followed what Brussels called “intense negotiations” with industry bodies and national governments.
“Some member states were concerned that the measure would introduce more red tape and costs,” EC health and consumer spokesman Frederic Vincent told FoodProductionDaily.com. “The new measures have come as quickly as possible. We had to discuss the measures with member states and that has taken a number of months.”
The scandal, which hit the headlines in December 2010 and January 2011, came after feed produced German company Harles and Jentzsch was found to contain industrial vegetable oil contaminated with dioxins that was given to pigs and chicken.
The incident led to a huge recall of eggs and pork as well as for calls to tighten up EU safety rules – including concerns over the lack of mandatory registration of firms, and the practice of industrial and food-use oils being processed in too-close proximity.
Under the new regulations, feed businesses processing crude vegetable oils, manufacturing products derived from oils of vegetable origin and blending fats, will have to be approved and registered, by the competent authority in each EU country.
Following the revelation that the German company had incorrectly mixed fatty acids meant to be used for technical applications such as paper processing, the plan also lays down that fats intended for feed and food will now be strictly segregated during production and transport from industrial fats in accordance with basic HACCP principles.
All laboratories will be obliged to alert authorities over excessive dioxin levels in produce. In addition, the labelling of the products must explicitly mention their intended use, which will help prevent products unfit for feed use entering the food chain, said the EC.
It also declared that a pan-EU plan that would introduce mandatory minimum risk-based testing for dioxins in the food chain.
The testing will focus on the risky products at the moment they enter the feed chain, to ensure the efficient use of resources and maximise the chances of detecting tainted product, said the EC.
The proposals also include a review clause so that lessons learned as the regulations are enforces can be applied to improve the industry oversight.
The plans, which have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, were unveiled following a declaration on 24 January 2011 by John Dalli, EU Health and Consumer Commissioner, that new measures were needed.
After months of wrangling they were finally given the green light by member states at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on Friday.