Sanctions reg. EU 1169/11, preliminary review

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The draft sanctions decree on EU Regulation 1169/11 neglects food safety aspects and the powers of the health administration

After three years of impunity over consumer information that does not comply with EU Regulation 1169/11-the so-called FIR, Food Information Regulation-the Italian government has finally begun preliminary consideration of the fateful sanctions decree.

The Council of Ministers announced the news in a press release, dated Sept. 8, 2017, raising no small amount of concern among those in the industry. In the part stating that the subject matter pertains only to‘violations related to information obligations,’ and as a result‘only penalties of an administrative nature have been introduced, involving the payment of a sum of not less than 150 euros and not more than 150,000 euros.’ (1)

Food safety in the EU regulation 1169/11

The health significance of some label information is thus overlooked. Instead, it should be emphasized that the safety assessment of food must be extended to the accompanying news. (2) Therefore, ‘disclosure requirements’ are relevant to food safety and consumer health, with specific regard to the following label information:


allergenic ingredients
(3) the citation of which is crucial. Even when the operator cannot rule out the risk of accidental contamination,

– warnings about certain ingredients that can trigger peculiar physiological or even pathological reactions. In the generality of consumers (e.g., caffeine, polyols) or in some of their categories (e.g., quinine, phenylalanine, glycyrrhizinic acid),

– special storage conditions (5) and expiration date. (6) Indispensable, even on so-called prewrappers, for the purpose of safe consumption of microbiologically perishable foods,

– batch code, (7) critical for traceability and food safety crisis management. (8)

The authority responsible for official public inspection

The government identifies‘the Department of the Central Inspectorate for the Protection of Quality and Fraud Repression of Agri-food Products (ICQRF) of the Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policy‘ as theadministrative authority responsible for imposing penalties.

The tug-of-war between the ministers for agricultural policy and health, however, is dysfunctional. Given that official public controls on food safety-which are, beyond doubt, the responsibility of the Health Administration-must also include those on food information. (9)

In fact, the European regulation on official public controls in the food chain hinges on the public health function of the competent authority. And it excludes from its scope commodity controls, which instead fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. (10)

Health care administration, neglected skills and danger to the system-country

The central competent authority should therefore be the health authority. As responsible ‘for organizing official controls and other official activities’ on food safety. (11) And it is the health administration that must ensure the effectiveness of controls on food labels, on par with those on hygiene and safety. With organization and facilities, qualifications and skills that ensure its all-round operation on the above-mentioned subjects. In conjunction with, among others, the European Risk Analysis Network.

Instead, the government’s draft decree seems to put food safety second to the distribution of political power and seats (12) in favor of the Ministry of Agriculture. But while the winner of the tug-of-war would seem to be Maurizio Martina, it is not only the health administration that is losing. But rather the system-country, the food chain, consumers.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) http://www.governo.it/articolo/comunicato-stampa-del-consiglio-dei-ministri-n-43/8047

(2) Having regard to, among other things, vulnerable categories of consumers. See reg. EC 178/02, General Food Law, Article 14

(3) See reg. EU 1169/11, Annex II

(4) reg. EU 1169/11, Annex III

(5) See paragraph B, in Article http://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/category/notizie/export-in-austria-è-ora-di-rispondere-per-le-rime-ai-consulenti-di-gruppo-rewe

(6) In fact, the expiration date should be marked‘on each individual prepackaged portion.’ After the expiration date, moreover, the food is considered unsafe. Cf. reg. EU 1169/11, Article 24.1 and Annex X

(7) The lot code, it is recalled, may be omitted if the date ‘best before’ is completed with day and month (see dir. 2011/91/EU, Art. 5)

(8) See reg. EC 178/02, Articles 18 and 19

(9) See reg. EU 625/2017, Article 1.2.a

(10) Reg. EU 625/2017, Article 1.4

(11) Idem c.s., art. 3.3.a

(12) If a member state spreads official controls over several authorities, it must ensure effective coordination among them and also designate a single authority to coordinate cooperation and contacts with the European Commission and other member states. V. reg. EU 625/2017, Article 4.2