Food safety

Consumer safety, including a high level of health protection, is indispensable for a well-functioning internal market. This is why food safety is mentioned in the Treaty establishing the European Community.

In recent years, European Community food law has been reformed, and a number of new regulations are being developed. The individual proposals and positions of the Czech Republic generally support the idea of food law reform, especially the simplification, harmonisation and clarification of requirements currently fragmented in a multitude of regulations of varying legal forms, as well as consumer protection and measures to prevent the creation of barriers to free trade.

The Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the business community is another instrument that delves into food law issues. The objective of this programme is to identify the administrative burdens faced by companies and to reduce them by 25% by 2010.
Regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Czech Presidency will address the co-existence of genetically modified crops with crops cultivated by means of traditional and organic farming. Finally, there will be a debate on uniform rules for limits and the labelling of GMOs in seeds.

Food quality

In future competition with third countries, the European Union will be able to defend its position by means of the quality and added value of its agricultural output. In 2007, a commissioner was appointed to deal with consumer protection issues (currently Meglena Kuneva). This was a major step taken by the EU to emphasize that consumer protection and interests are a priority. At the beginning of 2007, the Green Paper on Consumer Protection was presented, offering a coherent summary of EU consumer policy, including a designation of areas that need to be improved or changed.

The common market organisation for agricultural products plays a pivotal role in food quality because it sets out marketing standards valid in the EU territory, with the requirement that the same or equivalent standards must exist for imports of food from third countries.

A specific food quality component is the EU system of protected indications and designations – Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG). The Czech Republic has submitted initiatives to the Commission for a review of the PDO/PGI protection system. It is seeking to expand the scope of agricultural products and foodstuffs, to harmonise the definitions of PDO and PGI, and to introduce different symbols for the EU and for third countries. It would also be advisable to harmonise legislation in this field, as it is currently fragmented and unclear.

The Czech Presidency will follow up on the Green Paper on Agricultural Product Quality Policy presented by the European Commission during the French Presidency. It will seek to promote the debate on the revision of the EU quality policy in order to ensure a long-term perspective for the quality of agricultural and food products, and especially of products with registered protected geographical indications or protected designations of origin.

The Czech Presidency will promote the discussion on the strengthening of the positions of these products on the internal market as well as toward third countries. The Presidency will also focus on efforts leading to the simplification and shortening of the protracted delays in assessment procedures. These activities are in the interest of the development of this policy and of producers throughout the EU Member States.

In order to contribute to the discussion on the Green Paper, the Czech Presidency will organise a high-level conference on the Future of EU Quality Policy for Agricultural and Food Products, which is to take place on 12 and 13 March in Prague.

The output of the conference and the results of the consultations will together form a contribution to the work of the Commission on the preparation of its communication on the Quality Policy. Following its publication, scheduled by the Commission for the end of May 2009, the Czech Presidency will chair the discussion with the Member States about its contents.

Geographical indications

With respect to third countries, EU manufacturers could be helped if the additional protection of geographical indications were extended to cover further products, such as wine and spirits, and if the World Trade Organization (WTO) were to introduce a mandatory PGI/PDO register for all products. However, some WTO countries do not recognise the EU systems and implement similar product labelling, for instance, by means of trademarks. The European Commission is seeking, within the WTO, to recognize at least several dozen PDO/PGI which should take precedence over trademarks.

To gather greater support for animal welfare legislation, which ensures high standards of livestock farming in the EU, a debate is under way on possible labelling and consumer information in this field.

Labelling of foodstuffs

The European Commission adopted and published a draft regulation on 30 January 2008, which aims at the revision of the requirements for food labelling at Community level and at the simplification and rationalisation of the related legislation. According to the draft regulation, the most important information about food should be structured uniformly and in an intelligible and clear manner so that customers can make informed decisions about their purchase with full knowledge of the information provided.

The draft regulation harmonises and updates two areas of legislation relating to the general and nutritional labelling of foodstuffs, which is covered by Directives 2000/13/EC and 90/496/EEC. Directive 2000/13/EC has been amended on several occasions, and developments on the market in food and consumer expectations have necessitated an update and a modernisation. Directive 90/496/EEC requires the Commission to submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of this directive. Interinstitutional procedures have changed, and in certain cases the Commission is required to submit an impact assessment with proposals for new legislation. An impact assessment providing an overview of the implementation of Directive 80/496/EEC is included with the review of legislation on nutritional labelling. Accordingly, no separate report on the implementation of this directive has been drawn up.
 The Czech Republic supports the European Commission’s intention to review food labelling requirements at Community level because the labelling of foodstuffs on the single market is a fundamental means of communication between industry and consumers. Moreover, this is legally highly complex, and the current legislation is out of step with the technological progress in food production and with the means of communication.
 The Czech Presidency will seek opportunities to make maximum progress in the negotiations of the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the provision of food information to consumers, depending on how much headway is made under the current French Presidency.

The Czech Presidency will strive to achieve maximum progress in the negotiations of the draft regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the provision of food information to customers at Council level. The Czech Presidency will seek to stimulate a constructive dialogue between the Member States and the European Parliament in order to achieve the common objective to enable the end users to make informed decisions about food and its safe use. With regard to the activities of the European Parliament, the real objective of the Czech Presidency is to achieve a ’framework agreement in the EU Council’.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:01

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