Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Report


The European Scrutiny Committee has agreed to the following Report:—


COM(00) 438

Draft Council Regulation on the hygiene of foodstuffs.

Draft Council Regulation laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.

Draft Council Regulation laying down detailed rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

Draft Council Regulation laying down the animal health rules governing the production, placing on the market and importation of products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

Draft Council Directive repealing certain Directives on the hygiene of foodstuffs and the health conditions for the production and placing on the market of certain products of animal origin intended for human consumption, and amending Directives 89/662/EEC and 91/67/EEC.

Legal base:(a) Articles 95 and 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
(b) and (c) Article 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
(d) Article 37 EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
(e) Articles 37, 95 and 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department:(a)-(c) and (e) Food Standards Agency
(d) Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: SEM of 26 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: HC 28-iii (2001-02), paragraph 1 (17 January 2001)
To be discussed in Council: Following receipt of European Parliament opinion
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:For debate in European Standing Committee C (decision reported on 17 January 2001 and confirmed on 18 July 2001)


  1.1  According to the Commission, there are at present 17 Directives dealing in one way or another with food hygiene, which have gradually developed since 1964 in response to the needs of the internal market, but which take into account also the need for a high level of consumer protection. The Commission considered this multiplicity of measures, the inclusion of provisions covering not only hygiene but also animal health and official controls and the existence of different hygiene regimes for products of animal origin and other products to be outdated and over-prescriptive, and to have resulted in considerable duplication and confusion. Consequently, it proposed in July 2000 to recast the existing requirements, and, in the process, to separate aspects of food hygiene from animal health and control issues.

  1.2  More specifically, the Commission proposed that the existing Directives should be repealed and replaced by four new Regulations, dealing separately with food hygiene, animal health and control issues, as follows:

      1  on the hygiene of all foodstuffs;

      2  laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin;

      3  laying down detailed rules for the organisation of official control on products of animal origin intended for human consumption;

      4  laying down the animal health rules governing the production, placing on the market and importation of products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

    The Commission subsequently[1] withdrew (c), dealing with official controls on products of animal origin, on the grounds that new scientific evidence had become available requiring a fundamental revision of this part of the proposal.

  1.3  The detailed changes proposed as regards the rest of the proposal, and their implications, were set out at some length in our predecessors' Report of 17 January 2001, which resulted in their recommending the document for debate. That Report highlighted three significant features in the main element of the proposal ((a) above) on the hygiene of all foodstuffs:

  • First, the transfer of the principal responsibility away from enforcement authorities and on to food businesses by requiring these (other than primary producers) to operate a fully-documented food safety management system, based on HACCP[2] principles, and involving the systematic assessment of all procedures involved in a food operation, and the identification of those points critical to product safety.

  • Secondly, ensuring good hygiene practice throughout the food chain, starting with primary production, in order to provide a "farm to fork" approach.

  • Thirdly, improved traceability by requiring the registration of food businesses.

  1.4  Our predecessors also noted that the Government had provided a draft initial Regulatory Impact Assessment, which was to be updated following consultation with interested parties. The draft Assessment pointed out that studies had suggested that up to 4.5 million people a year may suffer from food-borne disease, with up to 750,000 of these having to consult their doctor. Deaths from food poisoning each year are put at around 50-60, and the annual cost to the National Health Service and business at up to £350 million a year. It suggested that consumers would benefit from safer food as a result of enhanced hygiene controls, whilst food producers and retailers would gain from the removal of outdated and unnecessary controls, their replacement by a single, systematic approach to all aspects of food safety, and the focusing of technical resources onto critical parts of the production process. However, it also suggested that there would be non-recurring costs associated with the introduction of HACCP systems, though these would vary greatly according to the extent to which those systems are already in place. In this respect, smaller food businesses were likely to be hardest hit, though the effect could be mitigated by the provision enabling Member States to seek derogations for them. The Assessment also pointed out that, where the proposals on registration exceeded existing UK requirements, there could be significant administrative costs.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 26 March 2002

  1.5  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health (Yvette Cooper) has provided with her Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 26 March 2002 the updated Regulatory Impact Assessment promised earlier, though, in the main, this amplifies, rather than amends to any major extent, the information in the preceding paragraph. The most significant points in the revised Assessment are:

  • that, for the vast majority of businesses affected by the proposals, the application of HACCP principles is not a new requirement, since existing legislation already requires its main elements to be applied as a key means of reducing food-borne diseases;

  • that the main change arises from the need for the businesses in question to provide documentary evidence that the procedures in place actually work (though the Assessment also suggests that some of the prescriptive detail required at present will be removed, thereby reducing the overall compliance burden for some sectors, for example slaughterhouses);

  • that, whilst not subject to a full documented HACCP-based procedure, primary producers will be required to monitor possible hazards to food safety, and to prevent, eliminate or reduce these to an acceptable level;

  • that, for most sectors, registration will also not be a new requirement;

  • that any increased compliance costs which did arise would neither deter new entrants nor bring about the closure of existing businesses;

  • that food-borne disease is largely preventable, and, although it is not possible to quantify the overall impact of the new system, it is expected to lead to a reduction in the risk equivalent to about £3 million a year;

  • that the costs and benefits of enforcement are likely to be closely balanced, with any initial training needs being offset by medium to longer-term improvements in effectiveness.

  1.6  The Minister says that the Assessment will be amended in the light of the results of ongoing consultations, although major changes are not expected. Further work is, however, being undertaken by the Food Standards Agency.


  1.7  Since the debate we have recommended on this document is to take place in European Standing Committee C on 24 April 2002, we are simply drawing this updated Assessment to the attention of the House.

1   (23102) 15475/01; see HC 152-xx (2001-02), paragraph 2 (6 March 2002). Back

2   Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. Back

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