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Food & Drink in the EU

Latest news on food policies in the European Union.

Process contaminants in vegetable oils and foods: EFSA report
Glycerol-based process contaminants found in palm oil, but also in other vegetable oils, margarines and some processed foods, raise potential health concerns for average consumers of these foods in all young age groups, and for high consumers in all age groups.

Novel Food - List of authorisations
Foods that may be placed on the market in the EU pursuant to Regulation (EC) No. 258/97 Article 4.2 first indent. Authorisation and use of novel foods and food ingredients have been harmonised in the European Union since 1997 when Regulation (EC) No 258/97 on novel food and novel food ingredients was adopted. Novel food is food not consumed to a significant degree in the European Union prior to 15 May 1997 and which falls under one of the categories listed in the Regulation (e.g. food consisting of or isolated from micro-organisms, fungi or algae).

Regulation on Novel Food
The European Parliament and the Council reached political agreement on 16 November on the EU's novel food proposal. The goal of the proposal is a more effective regulatory environment that will allow businesses to bring innovative food to market, whilst ensuring the highest possible levels of food safety for European consumers.

Monitoring drinking water for better protection of public health
New EU rules to improve the monitoring of drinking water across Europe came into force on 28 October, improving access to wholesome and clean drinking water in Europe.

GMOs in the EU - review of decision-making process
The European Commission presented on 22 April the outcome of its review of the decision-making process for the authorisation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as food and feed.

EU Commission policies on GMOs
The European Commission presented on 22 April the outcome of its review of the decision-making process for the authorisation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as food and feed. This review derives from the Political Guidelines presented to the European Parliament in July 2014, on the basis of which this Commission was elected. The Commission says the review confirms the need for changes that reflect public views and allow national governments to have a greater say on the use of EU-authorised GMOs for animal (feed) or human (food) consumption. As a result of this review, the Commission proposes to amend the legislation to confer upon Member States more freedom to restrict, or prohibit the use of EU-authorised GMOs in food or feed on their territory.

97% of foods in EU contain pesticide residues within legal limits
More than 97% of all samples analysed as part of the latest Europe-wide monitoring programme of pesticides in foods contain residue levels that fall within legal limits - with over 54% of samples free from any detectable trace of the chemicals. These findings are part of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) 2012 annual report on pesticide residues in food. The report is based on the analysis of almost 79,000 food samples carried out by 27 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

Food Information to Consumers - new labelling rules
New EU food labelling rules come into force on 13 December to ensure that consumers receive clearer, more comprehensive and accurate information on food content, and help them make informed choices about what they eat.

Avian Influenza in The Netherlands and the UK
The European Commission adopted on 17 November two emergency safeguard Decisions addressed to The Netherlands and the UK that define the areas that have been placed under stringent veterinary restrictions by those Member States, and where measures according to EU legislation are applied. The measures aim at quickly bringing the disease under control and at preventing the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza within the affected Member States, to other Member States and to third countries while minimising the disturbance to trade.

EUR 165m package for perishable fruit & vegetable market support
The European Commission adopted on 30 September a new programme for emergency market measures for perishable fruit & vegetables in the wake of the Russian ban on imports of certain EU agricultural products.

Study maps EU school food policies
The Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), has published the first comprehensive report on school food policies in Europe, as part of EU efforts to help reduce childhood obesity.

EC consults on protection of geographical indications for non-agricultural products
The European Commission launched on 15 July a Green Paper consultation on a possible extension of geographical indication protection to non-agricultural products.

Unfair trading practices in the food supply chain
The European Commission adopted on 15 July a Communication encouraging EU Member States to look for ways to improve protection of small food producers and retailers against the unfair practices of their sometimes much stronger trading partners. Before a food product reaches the consumer, many different market players (producers, processors, retailers, etc.) in the supply chain add to its quality and value. Due to developments such as increased market concentration, there are very different levels of bargaining power in the relations between the players in the supply chain. Whilst differences in bargaining powers are common and legitimate in commercial relationships, these imbalances can in some cases lead to unfair trading practices (UTPs).

European Partnership on alternatives to surgical castration of pigs
The European Partnership on Pig Castration has been formed to develop methods to phase out the surgical castration of pigs by 2018, and to make sure that costs of transition are shared in a fair way. Because this transition may involve the use of different methods throughout the EU, this could affect the functioning of the EU Market. Therefore, baseline methods for detecting boar taint will be developed to prevent the pork trade from being disrupted.

EU Strategy for the Welfare of Animals - mid-point review
The European Commission marks the mid-point of the EU Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 in Brussels on 12 February 2014. The event brought together key stakeholders to review the achievements of the strategy to date, and to identify remaining challenges. Government authorities, non-governmental organisations and those who work with animals every day discussed practical issues related to animal welfare and identify key areas for action to improve animal conditions for the strategy’s remaining term and beyond.

European School Milk Scheme
The EU School Milk Scheme is intended to encourage consumption among children of healthy dairy products containing important vitamins and minerals. The scheme does not only have a nutritional character but also an educational character and contributes therefore greatly to the fight against obesity among children. The School Milk Scheme is there to provide quality products for children, to contribute to a healthy way of living and to nutritional education with a better knowledge on products.

School Fruit Scheme
This EU-wide voluntary scheme provides school children with fruit and vegetables, aiming thus to encourage good eating habits in young people. Besides providing fruit and vegetables the scheme requires participating Member States to set up strategies including educational and awareness-raising initiatives.

School Schemes for Fruit, Vegetables and Milk
The European Commission has published a proposal bringing together two currently separate school schemes, the School Fruit Scheme and the School Milk Scheme, under a joint framework. In a context of declining consumption among children for these products, the aim is to address poor nutrition more effectively, to reinforce the educational elements of the programmes and to contribute to fight against obesity. With the slogan "Eat well - feel good", this enhanced scheme from farm to school will put greater focus on educational measures to improve children's awareness of healthy eating habits, the range of farm produce available, as well as sustainability, environmental and food waste issues.

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.