EU risk control amendments being reworked, reports UK regulator
hygiene rules for small slaughterhouses, and a new action plan for
boosting regulatory oversight of industry are on the agenda at the
Food Standards Agency's (FSA) meeting this morning.
FSA chief executive John Harwood reported that the European Commission is currently reworking some of its proposed changes to the bloc's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements. The re-examination of the proposals to exempt very small businesses from the HACCP requirements is being done after criticism from some EU regulators and food technologists. A meeting of an EU committee under the Portuguese presidency took place on 13 September where a document was tabled which included a reworking of the Commission proposal, Harwood reported. The Commission proposes an amendment that exempts food businesses with fewer than ten employees from following HACCP principles. The proposal arises from the Commission's policy to reduce the administrative burdens on business by 25 per cent by 2012. However, the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) issued a statement earlier this year criticising the plan as an unwarranted relaxation of safety standards. The IFST said it has a "strong objection" to the proposed exemption. The organisation claims that when HACCP is correctly applied it can be an aid to business, not a burden. HACCP is a systematic preventative approach to food safety aiming to spot physical, chemical and biological hazards at the during the manufacturing process, rather than at final product inspection. Meanwhile FSA representatives are currently discussing a separate proposal to amend the UK's EU-based hygiene legislation to allow some very small slaughterhouses to continue to operate subject to safeguards to protect public and animal health. Consultation on legislation to introduce national measures within current EU law starts on 24 September and the European Commission has been notified, Harwood reported. The amendment aims to help companies that cannot comply fully with new structural requirements in the hygiene law. The FSA will oversee a pilot project allowing processors of small quantities of wild game to produce minced meat from matured carcasses and to take full responsibility for safety of their product. At the policy level, Harwood said the FSA will now develop an action plan by January 2008 to deliver a step-change improvement in performance. The action plan will be based on recommendations made by an independent government panel examining the performance and weaknesses of the regulator. The second six-monthly assessment by government's Better Regulation Executive and its independent moderation panel concluded that the FSA has made progress across the areas included in the assessment. However the panel concluded that the FSA needed a better understanding of the reality of running food businesses in order to develop practical and timely interventions. FSA staff also need a consistent understanding of the characteristics of market failure, to support any intention to intervene in protecting consumers where the market is not balanced, not effective, or does not provide proper levels of protection, Harwood reported. "We should evaluate the success of all our interventions that have a regulatory impact," he stated in an advance copy of his report of the assessment. "We should learn from and act on the assessments that we and others make of our performance, and we should work in partnership with others to achieve common goals." A Hampton Implementation Review of the FSA and four other major national regulators is also in the works. Harwood also made updates on regulatory actions the FSA and local authorities have taken. He noted that the Eurofreeze case was listed for hearing on 10 September but has been adjourned until 19 September for determination of the issue whether service of the summons has been effected on the company's premises. Eurofreeze is appealing a case in which the FSA alleges it redistributed fraudulently labeled meat. "It is unlikely that the substantive hearing will take place then and the case might be further adjourned," Harwood said, noting he would provide more updates at the meeting. A judicial review of proceedings brought against the FSA by Eurostock in relation to its business of harvesting head meat was adjourned earlier this month to allow related issues to be considered, he reported.