Monday (19 December) saw the Council of the EU ratify the text of the new rules following trilogue negotiations.
A spokesperson for the Council told us: “The next step – approval of the text by the EU Parliament at plenary session – is really just a formality and, then, the rules will be published in the Official Journal of the EU.”
The regulation is aimed at improving the checks and balances carried out by EU countries to ensure the application of EU legislation on food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, plant health, and plant protection products.
“What we expect from this new legal framework is better co-operation between private and official controls. This means, in practice, that the authorities would take into account the controls performed by operators in the framework of their own safety management systems or as part of third party certified feed safety assurance schemes.
“This would mean fewer controls for operators and also the possibility of getting a rebate on control fees,” Arnaud Bouxin, deputy secretary general of FEFAC, told us.
On the rules around control fees, much remains the same, he said.
“The fee for approval of establishments and for imports controls is still mandatory, and in terms of the costs of routine controls, it is still the prerogative of member states or regions to decide whether to recover the costs via a fee or if this should be supported by tax payers.
We will have a better picture on which direction countries are taking within the next few months.”
Bouxin said the only real point of contention for the feed sector in relation to the new rules is the fact that authorities will now recover, through fees, the costs of paying the social security, pension and insurance costs of official controls employees as well as the cost of their training to support them in the performance of their duties.
“On the other hand, we welcome the greater transparency [evident] in the setting of fees,” he added.
Newly identified risks
The Council said the extended scope of the regulation “guarantees uniform enforcement across sectors, but still allows for adjustments taking into account the specific needs of individual sectors or newly identified risks.”
Authorities will be able to perform regular unannounced official controls and impose deterrent financial penalties on operators committing intentional violations.
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, added the Council.
And, it noted that, for the first time, the revised rules require EU countries 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 – whistleblowers - who report such breaches against retaliation, discrimination or other types of unfair treatment.
The Commission, however, is to fine tune the official controls over a number of years. Measures will be implemented stepwise, some within a year after publication and others within six years. During that period, the EU executive will draft different delegated and implementing acts, and, so, is involving stakeholders in the process.