The Parliament has adopted plans to combat food fraud, improve food traceability and restore consumer trust in food chains, with a risk-based approach, to prevent consumers being deceived.
The regulations, which had already been approved by the 28 member states, will be put in place gradually throughout the EU member states, with the official date being 20 days after publication.
However it could take a maximum of six years before the standards are fully adopted.
Plans were proposed in 2013 by the EU Commission in order to avoid another scandal such as when numerous European supermarket items marketed as beef or pork were found to be undeclared horse meat.
“After the horse meat scandal, consumers had serious questions about the traceability of food, and the integrity of the meat supply chain. The European Parliament strove to address these concerns and to end up with a text that allows competent authorities to effectively combat fraudulent practices,” said Karin Kadenbach, Parliament rapporteur.
The new regulation provides controls for preventing risks to human and animal health caused by animal by-products; organic production and labelling of organic products; the use of protected designations of origin, protected geographical indications and traditional specialities; and measures to protect against organisms harmful to plants.
By using a risk-based approach, it is hoped that resources will be freed up to focus on areas where enforcement needs to be prioritised.
The regulations will also cover e-commerce and imports from non-EU countries.
Mystery shopping techniques will be used to regulate online shopping, with officials ordering products without identifying themselves and using the purchased products as samples.
Imports will be checked at border control posts, where produce will be checked for their origin, health, safety, animal welfare and environment.
These physical checks could include laboratory testing as well as systematic checks on documentation.
“Really deterrent penalties” will be a key tool in protecting against food fraud, including fines reflecting the expected economic gain or a percentage of the turnover made by the fraudulent operator.
A main focus of the regulations is on the traceability of produce in Europe, with Parliament saying checks will be carried out on operators of all stages of production, processing and distribution.
“The agri-food chain has become much more complex. It was therefore necessary to make the controls more efficient and less administratively burdensome. Independent, regular, unannounced inspections based on risk analysis will be carried out,” said Marc Tarabella, Belgian socialist MEP, in charge of consumer protection (quote translated from French).