The European Commission has proposed reduced legislation and tougher fines among a raft of measures to protect against food fraud in light of the recent horse meat scandal.
Current EU law covering the food supply chain consists of more than 70 pieces of legislation, and the Commission has proposed reducing this to just five, as part of its ‘Smarter Rules for Safer Food’ package presented in Brussels on Monday.
In a news conference, Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said reducing the current body of legislation would be achieved “not by regulating less and endangering safety, but by harmonising better and by better regulation.”
The new legislation would also increase the number of unannounced inspections, and mandate that fines for food fraud were at a level equal to the economic gain made from the violation of the law.
“It is useless to have well-crafted EU legislation if you don’t have the means to enforce it,” Borg said. “…Crime must not pay.”
‘Not a question of food safety’
He added: “We know that the horse meat scandal was not a question of food safety, but it was a question of deliberate fraudulent labelling to make economic gain because in most countries horse meat is cheaper than beef.”
In the future the Commission would also have the authority to bind member states to carry out testing under the legislation, rather than just make recommendations for testing, as was the case in the horse meat situation.
The measures are also intended to reduce red tape for food manufacturers and primary food producers throughout the agri-food chain, Borg said.
Origin labelling was not included in the legislation, and the Commissioner said discussion would take place this year to decide whether to extend country of origin labelling to all meat products, including processed meat products.
The Commission’s proposals will now be considered by other EU institutions, including the European Parliament and Council. The Commission estimated that the package would come into force in 2016.