The rejected pan-EU fees for food chain inspections would have spelled higher food costs and an excuse to dip official hands into industry and consumer pockets, says a UK Conservative MEP.
The measure was part of a plans to improve food chain traceability following the horse-meat scandal in 2013. The European Commission proposal aimed to tighten existing rules on responsibility and enforcement of food chain legislation, which now still lies primarily with EU member states. It sought to provide a way in which full cost recovery could be achieved for inspections and would have seen food and agriculture firms paying for this process.
The Conservative party claimed that “intensive negotiation and persuasion” by Member of European Parliament (MEP) Julie Girling had been a “major success” in securing the rejection earlier this month of the compulsory-fee scheme.
Speaking at a debate last week in Strasburg, Girling welcomed the move in its retainment of a member state's right to decide on levying fees.
“This was crucial for us – we must be able to take account of the different systems and economic conditions in place across the EU – in terms of respecting subsidiarity,” she said.
"Concerns over the food chain were simply being used as an excuse to seize additional EU powers in order to dip official hands in the pockets of the agriculture industry, its customers, and the public,” she said.
£78 million in costs
The Conservative party recalled figures of a Whitehall study that estimated the measure would add £48 million in direct costs to the UK food industry and £30 million in administration.
According to Tories each EU country would have been obliged to levy fees from food-business operators in relation to the cost of official controls on food and feed supply.
“Arbitrary and compulsory”
Mrs Girling said: "Consumers and farmers need a regime that gives them confidence in the supply-chain when it comes to food and feed. But they should not be forced to pay for it by way of arbitrary and compulsory fees which do nothing in themselves to improve quality or standards.
"Doubtless the impact of the extra costs would ultimately have been felt in higher food prices which shoppers can ill afford."