Spain has just enacted Law 28/2015 of 30 July 2015 for Food Quality Protection (SFQP).
The SFQP was enacted to provide basic legislation on food quality protection, including the corresponding sanctioning regime arising out of art.55 of Regulation 882/20041.
The aim of SFQP is to guarantee market unity and legal certainty to the market operators by means of a higher commercial transparency. In order to prevent food fraud and improve food quality, it refers to both (i) the technical aspects of the techno-sanitary regulations and (ii) the Spanish and EU legislation regulating the main features of food and its production process, and overlays these with several levels of regulation.
It is intended that the SFQP will provide the food sector with a single national regime applicable to all operators in the Spanish market regardless of their specific national region of origin.
Scope of the SFQP
The SFQP shall be applicable to all food and food products as defined by Regulation 178/20022, and to all operators/premises in the economic chain.
However, the application of the SFQP does not extend to the hygienic and sanitary aspects of food safety; genetically modified organisms and food product radiation; retail activity to final consumers; export activity; primary production, including welfare of animals; and ecologic production.
The SFQP provides a definition of food quality, such definition encompassing the "properties and features of food or food products regarding raw materials and ingredients used in its production, its nature, composition, purity, identification, origin and traceability, as well as the procedures for its production, storage, packaging and commercialisation, and the presentation of the final product, including content and the information provided to the final consumer, especially regarding labelling".
The SFQP also includes the unavoidable mutual recognition provision relating to food products legally produced or commercialized in accordance with the laws of other EU Member States, or the original countries of the European Free Trade Association, the members of the European Economic Area Agreement and those States that have entered into customs association agreements with the EU.
Food quality control systems
Notwithstanding official control at EU level, the SFQP also regulates both official control and self-control procedures and has a number of provisions relating to certification entities for accrediting the compliance with self-control procedures. These entities shall need to make a single responsible declaration where they start to operate, this declaration being valid and binding throughout the Spanish territory.
Basic sanctioning regime
One of the main objectives of the SFQP is the setting of a common minimum denominator applicable throughout the Spanish territory regarding official control and the applicable sanctioning regime. This is likely to have a material impact on the food sector in Spain as until the enactment of the SFQP the control and sanctioning regime applicable differed around the country and could impair the principle of freedom of business under art.38 of the Spanish Constitution (SC) and the freedom of movement and circulation of goods under art.139 SC. The fines may amount to up to €3,000,000.
Specific sanctioning provisions relating to bovine and pig channel classification are also included.
Collaboration and cooperation of public administration
With the aim of improving coordination of official control, and as a basic instrument to achieve coordination between the different administration bodies, the SFQP has created the Food Quality Coordination Board, composed of members of the Spanish central government and of the different Spanish autonomous regions. This seems to be the best means of ensuring the uniform application throughout the Spanish territory of food quality control and the only means of guaranteeing fair competition.
Over the coming months, it will be interesting to see the extent of harmonisation achieved by the SFQP and the real impact on food quality in Spain.