UK draft code of practice to usher in EU-wide hygiene laws

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Food safety Eu

The UK's food regulator has issued another draft of its code of
practice under the country's food laws to take account of the EU's
hygiene regulations due to come into force at the end of the year.

The package of five hygiene laws adopted by the EU last year aim to merge, harmonise and simplify complex requirements currently scattered over seventeen EU directives. The single hygiene policy,due to come into force on 1 January 2006, will apply to all food and all food operators. While the package would lead to higher costs for food processors, it would also make cross-border trading inthe bloc simpler for them by establishing a common set of rules.

With the establishment of a common health certificate for food and feed products entering the EU, imports would also face less red tape under the new rules. This is a mixed blessing for foodprocessors. Those bringing supplies into the bloc would find it easier to do so. However it could also result in increasing competition within the bloc from non-EU companies.

The latest draft by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) revises the code of practice under the Food Law. It is applicable to England only. In the main the changes clarify the enforcement responsibilitysplit between the various regulators responsible for food safety.

It clarifies the enforcement responsibilities of agencies dealing with food composition, chemical contamination, adulteration and labelling provisions. The draft also clarifies the powers of seizureand detention for trading standards officers and the powers the food authorities have in relation to imported food.

It states the new legislative requirement for staff carrying out official safety controls. In the main food safety staff must be free from any conflict of interest.

The document also states the new legislative basis for keeping records of approved and registered food business establishments.

There has also been substantial changes made to state the new legislative basis for food company registration and sets out the procedures.

Under the EU's new hygiene laws there are no exemptions for registration as there is under current rules. All food businesses will now be required to register with local authorities.

The draft has also been updated to reflect the enforcement split between the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2005.

The document also clarifies the differences in the use of the Food Safety Act 1990 and the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2005..

Further revisions will be necessary in the future to take account of EU food hygiene regulations and the national implementing regulations relating to England, all of which are applicable from 1January 2006, the FSA stated.

"The reason for the documents being issued in draft is that there are on-going matters in relation to the legislative changes at both European and national level which will mean thatfurther revisions to the documents will be necessary,"​ the FSA stated.

The hygiene package was adopted in April 2004 and consists of a set of regulations overhauling all previous EU food and feed hygiene legislation. The application of the laws was delayed until 1January 2006 to give member states, countries trading with the EU and food business operators time to conform to the new legal framework.

The legislation lays down general hygiene rules for the production of all food. Specific rules are set for meat and meat products, bivalve molluscs, fishery products, milk and dairy products, eggsand egg products, frogs' legs and snails, animal fats, gelatine and collagen.

The EU's unified hygiene regulations include provisions increasing the amount of information required to trace foods and ingredients through the supply chain. They also include information ontesting methods for marine biotoxins and fishery products along with requirements for listing approved food companies.

The package introduces also introduces hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP), an internationally agreed set of principles to manage the food safety risks during production processes.

The HACCP plan is based on seven principles identified in the Codex guidelines adopted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation's Codex AlimentariusCommission in 1993.

The regulations will not apply to the direct supply by the producer of small quantities of primary products to the final consumer or to local retail establishments. For example, the EU'sadministrative body points out that apples or eggs sold directly at the farm gate or in local retail shops are not covered by the regulations.

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