The proposed UK guidance note covers EU legal requirements on food and feed safety, traceability provisions and the need to notify, withdraw or recall products. The The Food Standards Agency (FSA) decided to re-issue the guidance notes after the food sector complainedthat they would result in high costs to the industry.
Traceability is a key concern within the food industry due to consumer concerns over food safety, new regulations and the cost of recalls to plants when products are found to be contaminated.
The FSA published the guidance notes for comment from industry, the public and others involved in the food supply chain. The guidance notes are part of the ongoingseries of advice the FSA plans to issue for processors on provisions in the EU's General Food Law.
The new draft now focuses primarily on the legal requirements of the EU regulation, the FSAstated. Under the revision the FSA would give a greater discretion to food businesses than iscontained in the EU guidance over how long they need to keep records for traceability purposes.
The FSA is also amending the requirement that food companies need to immediately produce traceability recordsby allowing processors in certain cases to produce these within "a short timescale". The new guidance notes also concentrate more on the requirements of the EU legislation and provide minimal advice on good practice,the FSA stated.
"The agency view is that these new FSA guidance notes are more appropriate for food businesses in theUK," the regulator stated. " This approach has been discussed with the European Commission."
The FSA says it is now seeking comments on the revision, especially on the partial regulatory impactassessment, which seeks to identify key issues and potential costs.
"In particular we would welcome your views on whether the focus on the requirements of legislation rather than best practice is more helpful to businesses and if this will remove the additional administrative costs businesses thought were contained in the ECguidance," the FSA stated.
The FSA is also seeking comments on the content and form of its guidance notes, the regulator's opinion that they will result in no additional administrative costs tothe industry beyond those incurred during the normal course of business, and the assessed costestimates from a partial regulatory impact assessment.
The proposed UK guidance notes on traceability are dealt with in article 14-16 and 18-20 of theEU regulation. The revised guidance notes are being issued to address concerns raised in a public consultationon the European Commission guidance on the regulation, held between July and October 2005.
The FSA originally issued its guidance notes on the general food law's legislative requirements on 31 December 2004. TheEuropean Commission's guidance was issued on 20 January 2005. The FSA revised its guidance on 10March that year to take account of the Commission's guidance notes.
The FSA subsequently consulted the public in July 2005 on how well the Commission's guidance had been working tohelp inform industry as to what procedures it need to take under the law.
"The reaction from business was that the EC guidance was resulting in disproportionate costs to the foodindustry," the FSA noted. "The EC guidance classifies traceability information in two categories, the first to meet the legal requirements and the second to be followed as best practice. Responses from food businesses to the consultation exercise indicated that following such best practice guidance could result in additional costs."
The deadline for comments is 26 January 2007.