In the wake of the Europe-wide horsemeat scandal, the European Commission has announced a new package of measures to strengthen the enforcement of food safety. As part of its landmark package, the Commission proposes condensing the current 70 pieces of food legislation down to just five, aiming to simplify and modernise the existing system. Red tape associated with food safety is expected to be reduced and stricter rules to prevent and penalise food fraud will be introduced. A risk-based approach is the main theme of the proposals in that member states must take action based on the risk posed.
The main proposals set out are as follows:
- Higher fines will be imposed on those who are guilty of food fraud. At the moment, the profit to be made from committing food fraud far exceeds the potential fines that can be imposed and the Commission seeks to remedy this by setting fines at “truly dissuasive amounts”.
- Member states will have to integrate anti-fraud checks into national control plans and ensure financial penalties will be set at dissuasive levels.
- The current system of fees to finance the effective implementation of the proposed controls will be extended to include additional sectors within the food chain.
- Member state governments will be forced to carry out a minimum number of unannounced inspections on food operators. This will be to ensure that the content of the product matches the description on the label.
- The package also addresses the issues of animal health, plant health and plant reproductive material. More simplified and flexible rules and a modernised approach are the focus.
The proposals will need to be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council before being brought into force. It is anticipated that the package will come into effect across the EU in 2016.