Critics hammer Commission's draft acrylamide regulation

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags: European union

Campaigners have challenged the legal basis of the European Commission’s draft regulation on acrylamide.

SAFE (Safe Food Advocacy Europe), Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and the law firm Client Earth have sent a letter to both the vice president, Frans Timmermans, and the health commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, outlining what they believe are major flaws with the current proposals.

“[…] It remains doubtful that the draft regulation complies with higher ranking law”​, the eight-page letter reads. As it stands the proposal also “presents various troubling elements that should be corrected before the approval of as final text”.

For a start, they argue the Commission is using the wrong regulations on which to base the new one, which could see the laws overturned if challenged. Sticking with indicative values is also in violation of one of the EU’s commitment to deliver “a high value of human protection”.

Wrong foundations

As it stands the legislation uses regulation pertaining to the hygiene of food (No. 852/2004). “[…] It is erroneous to apply to acrylamide legislation to hygiene, because such substance does not correspond to any definition regarding hygiene,”​ states the letter from the campaigners legal representative at law firm Cintiolo & Associates.

The “appropriate and legitimate legal basis”​ for the new acrylamide legislation should in fact be the regulation on contaminants (No. 1881/2006), which sets out maximum levels for certain contaminants in food. This would also be in line with opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

This “error”​ alone could justify the future annulment of the regulation, as has happened on previous occasions, explained Floriana Cimmarusti, secretary general at SAFE. “The choice of the wrong legal basis might justify, under certain conditions, the annulment of a [European] Union act.”

No value in indicative values

The indicative values also need to be lowered. The setting of these levels has been a hot potato since drafting begun.

Campaigners want maximum levels set. But industry  – as well as the health commissioner – have said this will only result in firms working to the level and not going any further.

In their letter the campaigners highlight the old and “inaccurate”​ data used by the Commission to determine the indicative levels for acrylamide content in various foods. “[…]  The Commission is fully aware of the most recent investigations and, consequently, is capable of identifying accurate and up to date values,” ​the letter states.

In adopting indicative values that are out of date and serve only as benchmarks to verify the effectiveness of the application of the Codes of Practice, the EU is “explicitly violating its obligation stemming from Article 168 of the TFEU to guarantee a high level of protection of human health​,” they said.

“We consider that the draft regulation, if adopted as currently drafted, will be ineffective and even counterproductive.”

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