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Food & Drink in the EU

Latest news on food policies in the European Union.

Commission proposals on animal cloning and novel food
The European Commission has today adopted three draft laws on animal cloning and on novel food which will provide legal certainty in this field. Two proposals will ban the use of the cloning technique in the EU for farm animals and the imports of these animal clones. The marketing of food from animal clones will also be prohibited. These proposals intend to address animal welfare and other ethical concerns related to the use of the technique. The draft law on novel food revises the existing Novel Food Regulation with a view to improving access of new and innovative food to the EU market, while still maintaining a high level of consumer protection.

New agricultural and agri-food product promotion policy
The European Commission has presented a draft reform of the information and promotion policy for European agricultural and food products. The new promotion policy, which benefits from a more substantial budget and will in future be supported by a European executive agency, is intended to act as key for opening up new markets. With the slogan 'Enjoy, it´s from Europe', the policy aims to help the sector's professionals break into international markets and make consumers more aware of the efforts made by European farmers to provide quality products, based on a genuine strategy established at European level.

EU policies on the cultivation and imports of GMOs
On the 26th September 2013, the General Court of the European Union delivered a ruling finding that the Commission failed to act on a GMO cultivation request which had been submitted twelve years ago in 2001. In line with this ruling, the Commission today acted by referring the cultivation request to the Council of Ministers. It is now up to the Ministers to take a position by qualified majority on this request. The European Food Safety Agency had already submitted a positive opinion on this request in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2012, in all six positive opinions. This 2001 request falls under the "old" pre-Lisbon comitology procedure, which means that if the Council is not able to muster a qualified majority, either for or against the authorisation, then the Commission is obliged by law to grant the authorisation. In parallel, the Commission has requested a fresh debate in the Council of Ministers of its so-called "cultivation proposal" on which the European Parliament has already adopted its opinion which would allow Member States to restrict or prohibit cultivation of GMOs on their territory on grounds other than those relating to risks to health and the environment.

What future for our food system? - EU consults
The European Commission has put out a consultation asking for opinions about the European food production and consumption system. With some 89 million tons of food wasted every year in Europe, the consultation asks stakeholders, citizens, businesses, NGOs and public authorities for ideas on how to reduce food waste and, more generally, how to ensure our food system is using resources efficiently. The Commission says these will provide input for a Communication on Sustainable Food later this year.

Smarter rules for safer food
The European Commission has adopted a package of measures to strengthen the enforcement of health and safety standards for the whole agri-food chain. Food safety is essential to ensure consumers' confidence and sustainability of food production. The Commission says the package of measures provides a modernised and simplified, more risked-based approach to the protection of health and more efficient control tools to ensure the effective application of the rules guiding the operation of the food chain. The package is a response to calls for better simplification of legislation and smarter regulation thus reducing administrative burden for operators and simplifying the regulatory environment. Special consideration is given to the impact of this legislation on SMEs and micro enterprises which are exempted from the most costly and burdensome elements in the legislation. The current body of EU legislation covering the food chain consists of almost 70 pieces of legislation. Today's package of reform will cut this down to 5 pieces of legislation and will also reduce the red-tape on processes and procedures for farmers, breeders and food business operators (producers, processors and distributors) to make it easier for them to carry out their profession.

European test results on horse DNA and Phenylbutazone
Coordinated EU-wide testing for horse meat DNA and phenylbutazone, requested, and co-financed, by the European Commission in the wake of the horse meat scandal, reveal that less than 5 % of the tested products had horse DNA and that about 0.5 % of the equine carcasses tested were found to be contaminated with bute.

Q&A on horsemeat
The horsemeat scandal has been making headline news over the last few weeks. Europe's food processing industry is facing a crisis of consumer confidence. The European Commission together with Member States competent authorities and EUROPOL have been working closely to get to the bottom of how horsemeat was found to be in food products labelled as 100% beef.

Value of production of agricultural products and foodstuffs, wines, aromatised wines and spirits protected by a geographical indication (GI)
This study, financed by the European Commission, was carried out by AND International. The conclusions, recommendations and opinions presented in this report reflect the opinion of the consultant and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Commission.

EFSA identifies risks to bees from neonicotinoids
EFSA scientists have identified a number of risks posed to bees by three neonicotinoid insecticides. The Authority was asked by the European Commission to assess the risks associated with the use of clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam as seed treatment or as granules, with particular regard to: their acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development; their effects on bee larvae and bee behaviour; and the risks posed by sub-lethal doses of the three substances. In some cases EFSA was unable to finalise the assessments due to shortcomings in the available data.

EU rules on food additives, enzymes and flavourings
European Commission website on EU rules on food additives, enzymes and flavourings, with background information on relevant EU legislation, as well as applying for an authorisation

EU adopts list of approved flavouring substances
Flavouring substances in food will become even safer and more transparent thanks to two pieces of legislation adopted today by the European Commission. Only those flavouring substances featuring on the approved lists will be permitted for use by the food industry. Used to alter the taste and/or odour of food, flavourings substances have a long history of safe use in a wide variety of foods, such as soft drinks, confectionery, cereals, cakes and yoghurts, and have now been evaluated at EU level. These two new pieces of legislation will clarify and harmonise the use of flavouring substances within the single market: The first Regulation1 provides for a new EU wide list of flavouring substances which can be used in food and will apply from 22 April 2013, giving time for the EU food industry to adapt to the new rules. All flavouring substances not in the list will be prohibited after a phasing out period of 18 months. The second Regulation2 concerns transitional measures for other flavourings such as flavourings made from non-food sources and will apply from 22 October 2012. The new list includes over 2,100 authorised flavouring substances. A further 400 will remain on the market until EFSA concludes its evaluation. These have been used for a long time and have already been assessed as safe by other scientific bodies.

Food quality labels: faster delivery, better protection, clearer information
The time it takes to obtain an EU quality label for farm produce from a given geographical area, or produced in a traditional way, could be halved by a regulation endorsed by Parliament on 13 September. The new rules, agreed by EP Agriculture Committee MEPs and Council negotiators in June, would also introduce a new label for "mountain" products. Labels for island produce and farm gate sales may follow soon.

List of permitted Health Claims on food products - guide
Health claims on food labelling and in advertising, for example on the role of calcium and bone health or vitamin C and the immune system, have become vital marketing tools to attract consumers' attention. EU consumers now expect accurate information on products they buy, in particular on the health claims the products may put forward. Today, a list of 222 health claims has been approved by the European Commission. This list is based on sound scientific advice, will be used throughout the EU and will also help to remove misleading claims from the market before the end of the year.

EU Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods
The EU Register is for information only, showing: Permitted nutrition claims and their conditions of use Authorised health claims, their conditions of use and applicable restrictions, if any; Non-authorised health claims and the reasons for their non-authorisation; EU legal acts for the specific health claims; National measures mentioned in Art. 23(3) of Regulation EC 1924/2006. The Commission will update the EU Register when required, namely upon adoption of EU decisions on applications for claims or on changes to conditions of use and restrictions.

Welfare of Laying Hens Directive
Council Directive 1999/74/EC, adopted in 1999, distinguishes three types of rearing systems for laying hens: enriched cages where laying hens have at least 750 cm² of cage area per hen; non enriched cage systems where hens have at least 550 cm² of cage area per hen. From 1 January 2003 onwards such cagesmay not be built anymore or utilised for the first time. By January 2012 at the latest this system must be prohibited; and non-cage systems with nests (at least one for 7 hens), adequate perches and where the stocking density does not exceed 9 laying hens per m² usable area.

Organic Wine rules - guide
New EU rules for “organic wine” have been agreed in the Standing Committee on Organic Farming (SCOF), and will be published in the Official Journal in the coming weeks. With the new regulation, which will apply from the 2012 harvest, organic wine growers will be allowed to use the term “organic wine” on their labels. The labels must also show the EU-organic-logo and the code number of their certifier, and must respect other wine labelling rules. Although there are already rules for “wine made from organic grapes”, these do not cover wine-making practices, i.e. the whole process from grape to wine. Wine is the one remaining sector not fully covered by the EU rules on organic farming standards under Regulation 834/2007.

European Union Register of nutrition and health claims made on food
This European Union Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods (“the Register”) has been established as foreseen in Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 and is updated regularly. Some sections of this Register are missing and will be completed, as appropriate, following the procedures detailed in the Regulation and depending on the applications for authorisation of health claims.

List of permitted Health Claims for use on Food - guide
In a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, EU Member States supported the European Commission's draft Regulation to adopt a list of permitted health claims for use on food.

Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain
The European Commission set up a High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain composed mainly of representatives of selected Member States, of European companies dealing with food production, processing or distribution, of professional associations and of non-governmental organisations representing the citizens' expectations. Vice-President Tajani is leading this exercise together with his fellow Commissioners in charge of Internal Market and Services, Health and Consumer Protection and Agriculture and Rural development.

Database on Food Additives
This database can serve as a tool to inform about the food additives approved for use in food in the EU and their conditions of use. It is based on the Union list of food. This list is in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008. The Union list was established after the transfer of the food additives permitted for use in foods under Directives 94/35/EC, 94/36/EC and 95/2/EC, in a new food categorisation system. Some additives and uses which are now longer needed are not entered in Annex II.

Food Additives - guide
The use of additives in food will soon become safer and more transparent thanks to two pieces of legislation adopted by the European Commission.

Binge drinking more common in northern Europe
The relationship between drinking and damage to one's health is stronger in the Baltic countries and Sweden than in Italy, new research from Europe shows. The findings, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, suggest that the northern part of Europe tends to report higher alcohol-harm relationships because of a stronger propensity to indulge in heavy episodic drinking, what experts label 'binge drinking'.

2009 European Union Report on Pesticide Residues in Food
The European Food Safety Authority has published its third Annual Report on Pesticide Residues, which gives an overview of pesticide residues found in food in the European Union during 2009 and assesses the exposure of consumers to those residues through their diets. The report shows that compliance rates continue to rise, with 97.4% of the samples analysed falling within the permitted Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs), a rise of about one percentage point since 2008.

EU register of genetically modified food and feed
Search the register for products containing GMOs e.g. if you type 'cotton', you will get a list of all products containing cotton in their description. This search covers the EU GMOs register (Regulation EC 1829/2003) and the products subject to EC decisions on withdrawal from the market.

Evaluation of the European Union's GMO legislation - guide
Two independent reports evaluating the European Union's legislation on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) conclude that there is broad support for the legislation's objectives and show that recent legislative Commission initiatives are heading in the right direction. The documents, published today, also note that some adjustments are necessary if we are to meet the objectives of the legislation -the protection of health and the environment and the creation of an internal market- and to ensure that the legislation is properly implemented.