New EU Official Control regulations came into force across the UK on 14 December 2019. The regulations aim to strengthen public health protection and the integrity of the food and feed chain in the UK.
The EU Official Controls Regulation (OCR) – Regulation (EU) 2017/625, is part of the EU Commission’s Smarter Rules for Safer Food initiative, which aims to modernise, simplify and strengthen official controls across the food chain, including plant and animal production, food manufacturing and supply, and processing and distribution.
The OCR will repeal and replace existing legislation which is integral to the activities of Food Standards Scotland as the national competent authority (CA) responsible for the delivery of official food and feed controls in Scotland, and other food and feed enforcement bodies such as Local Authorities.
This includes Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 regarding official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules; Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 that lays down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin (POAO) intended for human consumption and Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 that lays down rules concerning the increased level of official controls to be carried out on imports of certain feed and food of non-animal origin.
While the OCR introduces more prescriptive controls in certain areas, greater flexibility is provided in others, and the overall impacts on the existing food and feed official control regime in Scotland are expected to be broadly policy neutral. An overview of the key elements the OCR will introduce is provided below.
The Official Feed and Food Controls (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 will provide for the execution and enforcement of the OCR in relation to Food Standards Scotland’s areas of responsibility for food and feed law.
The Official Controls (Agriculture etc.) (Scotland) Regulations 2019 make provision in respect of official controls and other official activities at border control posts; genetically modified organisms for the purposes of feed and food production; animal health requirements; prevention and minimisation of risks to human and animal health from animal by-products and derived products and welfare requirements for animals.
Key elements of the OCR
The OCR seeks to clarify and/or enhance current provisions on the performance of official controls by CAs. The current provisions remain substantially the same, but the key changes are:
- introducing a new definition of ‘other official activities’. For example, enforcement measures and/or remedial actions following non-compliance; management of lists of registered/approved food and feed business operators or the issuance of official certificates (Article 2);
- clarifying that CAs are required to carry out regular, risk-based official controls, directed at identifying fraudulent and deceptive practices (Article 9);
- providing for greater transparency and accountability by CAs through the publication of information about the organisation and performance of official controls (Article 11);
- requiring CAs to provide FBOs with copies of reports where non-compliance has been detected as well as where compliance has been achieved (Article 13);
- introducing new provisions to regulate the delegation by CAs of tasks relating to ‘other official activities’ and the conditions to be met for delegating, with the exception of enforcement measures and/or remedial actions following non-compliance (Articles 28 – 33);
- clarifying that sampling of animals and goods ordered on-line by the CA without identifying themselves can be validly used for the purposes of an official control. CAs must inform the food or feed business operator that such a sample has been taken and, where appropriate, is being analysed in the context of an official control (Articles 35 and 36);
- introducing harmonised rules for official controls at borders across the different commodities (Articles 47 – 55);
- amalgamating existing entry documents, such as the Common Entry Document (CED) for high-risk Food Not of Animal Origin (FNAO) and the Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) for POAO, as Common Health Entry Documents (CHEDs) (Articles 56 – 58);
- Border Control Posts (BCPs) will replace Border Inspection Posts (BIPs), Designated Points of Entry (DPEs) and First Points of Introduction (FPIs). All existing approvals will be withdrawn and re-designated as BCPs in accordance with Article 59 provided that the minimum requirements referred to in Article 64 (i.e. facilities, equipment, etc.) are complied with (Article 61);
- establishing IMSOC the Information Management System for official controls to link all existing and future IT systems managed by the Commission (e.g. TRACES, RASFF and Europhyt) to enable and efficient exchange of information (Articles 131 – 136).
- ensuring that the penalties associated with fraud convictions must represent the economic advantage gained by the perpetrator as a result of that fraudulent action (Article 139).