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Public Health Policy in the EU

Latest news on the public health policy of the European Union.

Plant health pests and EU funding programmes to deal with them - guide
The European Union today earmarked 19 million euros to co-finance programmes in seven Member States aiming to combat organisms harmful to plants and to prevent them from spreading further in the Union and thus from having sever consequences on the internal market. During a meeting of the Standing Committee on Plant Health (SCPH), the Member States endorsed two Commission proposals providing the co-financing (EUR 15 and EUR 4 million respectively) of actions already undertaken in the past or planned to be executed next year.

EU move to reduce cigarette ignited fires - guide
Cigarettes left unattended are one of the leading causes of fatal fires in Europe. Evidence shows that the number of fatalities can be reduced by over 40% with the introduction of 'Reduced Ignition Propensity' (RIP) cigarettes. This means cigarettes which self extinguish when left unattended and which are thus less likely to cause fire. This safety measure is already in place in some countries globally (US, Canada, Australia), and, in the EU, in Finland since April 2010. As from 17th November 2011, once the new safety standards are published in the EU Official Journal all cigarettes sold in Europe will have to comply with these measures. It will be the role of the national authorities to enforce this new fire safety measure.

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.

Health and Consumer Programmes 2014-2020 - guide
The European Commission has adopted proposals for the new Health for Growth and Consumer Programmes. The two programmes aim to foster a Europe of healthy, active, informed and empowered citizens, who can contribute to economic growth. These new programmes will run from 2014-2020 with a budget of EUR 446 million for the Health for Growth Programme and EUR 197 million for the Consumer Programme. Focus will be on fewer concrete actions that offer clear EU added-value.

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'.

Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF)
Created in 1979, RASFF - the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed - enables information to be shared efficiently between its members (EU-28 national food safety authorities, European Commission, EFSA, ESA, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland) and provides a round-the-clock service to ensure that urgent notifications are sent, received and responded to collectively and efficiently. Thanks to RASFF, many food safety risks had been averted before they could have been harmful to European consumers.

Report documents growing importance of the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed
The European Union's system for quick exchange of information on risks linked to food and feed - an invaluable tool especially at times of crisis - has further grown in importance during 2010, the system's annual report reveals.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) - guide
EFSA publishes report from its Task Force on the E. coli O104:H4 outbreaks in Germany and France in 2011 and makes further recommendations to protect consumers

"Ex-smokers are Unstoppable" campaign - guide
Ex-smokers are unstoppable" is the slogan of the EU-wide campaign launched today by European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli. Tobacco is the single largest cause of avoidable illness in the European Union and the estimated cause of death of over 650,000 people in the European Union every year. 1 in 3 people smoke. The 3 year campaign being launched today will focus on the positive effects of stopping smoking and will use a coordinated mix of advertising, social media, events and practical tools to reach smokers and help them quit.

Traditional herbal medicines: more safety for products put on EU market
From 30 April 2011, EU citizens can be reassured that the traditional herbal medicines they buy in the EU are safe and effective. The expiry of the 7 year transition period set out in the 2004 Herbal Directive (2004/24/EC) means that only medicinal products which have been registered or authorised can remain on the EU market after 1 May 2011. The Herbal Directive introduces a simpler registration procedure than for other medicinal products, in respect of the long history of use of traditional herbal medicinal products. At the same time, the Directive provides the necessary guarantees of their quality, safety and efficacy.

EU Health Programme - funding schemes
The Health Programme supports activities that improve and protect human health. Different funding schemes are available depending on the type of project. The type of funding for each activity is set out each year in a work plan – with the aim to achieve goals as efficiently as possible with the full cooperation of programme stakeholders. Unless indicated otherwise tender, the basic principle is joint funding: Commission grants cover a certain percentage of projects' overall costs.

Public consultation on the eHealth Action Plan (eHAP) 2012-2020
The questionnaire is open to all interested stakeholders and aims at understanding if the proposed eHealth Action Plan objectives are in line with the aims, objectives and expectations of stakeholders. It further aims to examine if there are additional areas which require further development in the context of the action plan. The eHAP aims at Increasing awareness of the benefits and opportunities of eHealth and improve its legal certainty.

EU Register of Clinical Trials
From 22 March 2011, all EU citizens have access to information on the thousands of authorised pharmaceutical clinical trials that are under way in the EU. The aim of this official public register is to make clinical research on pharmaceuticals more transparent for patients and others and to avoid unnecessary duplication of clinical trials. Every year approximately 4000 clinical trials are authorised in the EU. Since most of them last 2 to 3 years, this means that around 10,000 trials are ongoing at any given time.

New EU Guidelines on Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis - guide
On the eve of World Cancer Day, in an effort to improve the screening and diagnosis of colorectal cancer, the European Commission published the first edition of the European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis. Colorectal cancer is the second most common newly diagnosed cancer in the EU. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in the EU, accounting for one in seven new cancers and one in eight cancer deaths. Improving diagnosis and screening is key to reduce the mortality rates from colorectal cancer.

Contact lens law is clarified by EU Court
Banning the sale of contact lenses on the Internet on the grounds of consumer health is disproportionate to consumer health requirements, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

EU actions to fight HIV/Aids - key facts
To commemorate World AIDS Day, the European Parliament held a seminar on HIV testing. Early detection is vital for early treatment and increasing life expectancy, as estimates show that about one third of people infected with HIV in Europe are unaware they have it. To fight AIDS on a global scale, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs recently announced a 10% increase in contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), to which the EU is already the largest donor, providing 52% of resources. The increase would allow the Commission to contribute around €1.3 billion over the period 2002-2013.

Cloning - guide
The European Commission has announced that it will propose a temporary suspension of animal cloning for food production in the EU. The Commission also plans to suspend temporarily the use of cloned farm animals and the marketing of food from clones. All temporary measures will be reviewed after five years. The establishment of a traceability system for imports of reproductive materials for clones, such as semen and embryos of clones is also envisaged. The system will allow farmers and industry to set up database with the animals that would emerge from these reproductive materials.

Safety of Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Production - Communication
The European Commission for the very first time envisages comprehensive EU legislation on oil platforms aimed at ensuring the highest safety standards in the world. In a Communication on the safety of oil and gas activities, the Commission contemplates new EU standards, including criteria for granting drilling permits, controls of the rigs and safety control mechanisms.

European Medicines Agency
The European Medicines Agency is a decentralised body of the European Union, located in London. Its main responsibility is the protection and promotion of public and animal health, through the evaluation and supervision of medicines for human and veterinary use.

Contraband and counterfeit cigarettes - guide
The European Commission has announced a multi-year agreement with British American Tobacco (BAT) to work together in tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products. Under the legally binding agreement, BAT will work with the Commission, its anti-fraud office OLAF, and EU Member States' law enforcement authorities to help in the fight against contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. The Agreement includes substantial payments by BAT to the Commission and Member States, totalling USD 200 million (EUR 134 million) over the next 20 years. It should make a significant contribution to the EU’s efforts to fight the illicit tobacco trade, which robs the EU and Member States of billions of euros every year.

EU's new approach to the cultivation of GMOs - guide
The European Commission has proposed to confer to EU Member States the freedom to allow, restrict or ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on part or all of their territory. While keeping unchanged the EU's science-based GM authorisation system, the adopted package consists of a Communication, a new Recommendation on co-existence of GM crops with conventional and/or organic crops and a draft Regulation proposing a change to the GMO legislation. The new Recommendation on co-existence allows more flexibility to Member States taking into account their local, regional and national conditions when adopting co-existence measures. The proposed regulation amends Directive 2001/18/EC to allow Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory.

Euro-MPs call for ban on food from cloned animals
Euro-MPs renewed their appeal for a ban on food from cloned animals when they voted on novel foods legislation on Wednesday. They also demanded a moratorium on foods using nanotechnology until potential health risks can be ruled out.

Annual report, 2009 bathing season
Every summer millions of Europeans head for the beach to enjoy the sun and to cool down in refreshing clean water. To allow Europeans to make an informed choice on which beach to choose a yearly report is published on the quality of coastal and freshwater bathing areas as reported by Member States for the beaches located within their territory. This year the report is being published by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which is also making available on its website maps and tables with detailed information on specific bathing areas. As well as all the 27 Member States of the European Union, this year's report covers for the first time Croatia and Switzerland. The overall quality of bathing waters in the EU has markedly improved since 1990. Compliance with mandatory values (minimum quality requirements) increased over the 1990 to 2008 period from 80% to more than 95% and from 52% to almost 90% in coastal and inland waters respectively. However, from 2008 to 2009 there was a slight deterioration in the number of bathing waters meeting minimum standards both for coastal and inland waters.

EU bathing water policy - briefing
The annual bathing water report presented by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency shows that 96% of coastal bathing areas and 90% of bathing sites in rivers and lakes complied with minimum standards in 2009. It also describes where to obtain detailed and up-to-date information on bathing sites.