‘Fipronil free’ stamp on eggs? Maybe not

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The ‘Fipronil free’ stamp on eggs was proposed yesterday by Assoavi, the association representing the entire egg supply chain in Italy, with the blessing of Coldiretti. (1) It is certainly worthwhile to do everything possible to safeguard the Italian poultry industry, but the idea of a stamp cannot be carried forward. Here’s why.

The marketing of eggs is regulated in Europe by the CMO, Common Market Organization, regulation, which defines their grading and identification codes to be stamped on products. In addition to the news that may come on the label. (2)

The aforementioned framework is in addition to general European-level provisions on food safety issues (3) and consumer information. (4) And it is only within the narrow scope covered by these regulations that national legislators can, where appropriate, intervene.

Any national standards additional to the common ones must still be justified (e.g., by health needs) and notified to Brussels, whose green light is essential for implementation.

Food safety is a pre-requisite for placing food and feed in the Internal Market. (5) Its assurance is the subject of an integrated responsibility involving all players in the supply chain. Primary agricultural production, import and B2B(Business to Business) trade, processing, distribution, and serving. In addition to transportation and logistics.

You cannot use commercial tools-such as voluntary label claims, advertising, marketing campaigns-to leverage an element, safety, that is mandatory for all. And therefore, removed from the logic of competition. As indeed is evident from the criteria defined by the ‘Food Information Regulation’ on fair information practices. (6)

All eggs must be 100 percent safe-just like sausages and any other food sold in Europe-regardless of country of origin and country of processing. And if even a potential security crisis occurs, whatever its extent, it must be managed with the available regulatory tools.

In the case of Fipronil (and Amitraz) eggs , since the scandal has affected at least 15 member states, the European Commission must intervene and coordinate the management of the food safety crisis. And if the commissioner-who held a meeting more than two months after the emergency broke out-does not prove capable of handling the situation, he should be replaced with a figure worthy of the role.

In Europe we can and should be activated. Demand accountability for the serious delays in risk communication and management, from the Dutch and Belgian authorities as well as the Commissioner. Demand additional Food & Veterinary Office checks and audits (7) on national systems that have misfired. Demand publication of the names of all companies involved –‘from stable to table‘ – and their trademarks. But the stickers, ‘fipronil free’ or ‘dioxins free,’ those just don’t!

A humble suggestion to the Ministry of Health. Communication procedures in crisis situations must be revised from scratch, statements later denied can cost the system-country dearly, as well as the credibility of the minister in charge. Better to let the administration work with all-time excellence, (8) without exhibiting rash statements.

And a concrete proposal to Assoavi president Gianluca Bagnara. Rather, consider highlighting – on the eggs themselves or on their labels – the Sigillo Italiano mark. A collective trademark that, we recall, can be used to distinguish Made in Italy livestock productions obtained under the SQNZ (Sistema Qualità Nazionale Zootecnia).

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) SEE http://www.rainews.it/dl/rainews/articoli/amp/ContentItem-93b1deae-5eef-48d8-8913-fb408d3cab49.html

(2) Reg. EC 1234/07,‘establishing a common organization of agricultural markets and on specific provisions for certain agricultural products (Single CMO Regulation)‘.Consolidated text at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:02007R1234-20131231&qid=1503606274462&from=EN. In Italy, DM 11.12.09 is added, at %252FD.1c53899ab3a62f2c046e/P/BLOB%

(3) Reg. EC 178/02 – so-called General Food Law – and Hygiene Package (reg. EC 852, 853, 854/04 et seq., reg. 2017/625/EU)

(4) Reg. EU 1169/11

(5) See reg. EC 178/02, Article 14

(6) See reg. EU 1169/11, Art. 7.1.c

(7) FVO, an entity supporting the European Commission.

(8) The daily bulletin of sampling and analysis at http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/news/p3_2_1_1_1.jsp? language=italian&menu=news& p=fromministry&id=3058