The package of measures - announced by European Health and Consumer Commissioner Tonio Borg on 6 May - includes a requirement for member states to introduce tougher financial penalties for food fraud, ensuring that fines are commensurate to potential economic gain in order to be “truly dissuasive”.
“Crime must not pay. If penalties are low, it does pay,” said Borg.
The EC also proposed giving itself powers to order member states to carry out testing and controls in cases of suspected food fraud and adulteration, rather than just recommend testing as is currently the case. It wants EU countries to introduce “unannounced” spot-checks on the food supply chain to reduce the risk of another scandal like horsemeat.
Borg said that the new package of rule, which also includes measures on plant and animal health, would cut red tape by reducing the current 70 pieces of legislation governing the EU food supply chain to just five. However, he added that by strengthening the legal framework governing official controls, it would also result in a safer food chain.
“Restoring the trust and confidence of our citizens and trading partners is key given that the agri-food industry is the second largest economic sector in the EU, employing over 48 million people and is worth some €750 billion a year,” he said.
Animal health would be covered by a single piece of legislation based on the principle that “prevention is better than cure”. Borg said it would harmonise national disease detection and control measures to “tackle health, food and feed safety risks in a coordinated way”.
“Improved identification and registration standards as well as the introduction of more flexibility into the system will allow farmers and vets to swiftly react and limit the spread of diseases,” he added.