As food safety has emerged as a top consumer concern, it has as a consequence, become an issue of the highest priority. The EU integrated approach to food safety aims to assure a high level of food safety, animal health, animal welfare and plant health within the EU through coherent farm-to-table measures and adequate monitoring, while ensuring the effective functioning of the internal market. The implementation of this approach involves the development of legislative and other actions.
In the year 2000 the EU has announced a drastic change in legislation with regard to food. With the publication of the EU "White paper on food safety" (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/library/pub/pub06_en.pdf) clear goals were set to introduce consistency and clarity throughout the whole production chain. The White Paper proposes an action plan with a wide range of measures to improve and bring coherence to the Community''''s legislation covering all aspects of food products from "farm to table".
The new legal framework covering animal feed, animal health and welfare, hygiene, contaminants and residues, novel food, additives, flavourings, packaging and irradiation came into force on 21 February 2002 (Regulation EC/178/2002, "General Food Law") and after a transition period the law is full in force since 1 January 2005.
Current European legislation for food safety and animal welfare cannot be understood completely without some background information on factors, which were important at the time of drafting this legislation. In this respect there is no real difference in approach for the different species involved, whether it concerns poultry, pigs or cattle.
In the EU the use of hormones and growth promoters in all primary production is forbidden. There are increasing consumer concerns in relation to animal welfare friendly production under environmentally acceptable conditions.
EU consumers could probably get cheaper food and less environmental burden, in case of importation, but they will have no control over how this food is produced. This issue has dominated a large part of the discussion on new food safety directives.
The main goals in EU animal production and therefore underpinning legislative processes can be summarized as follows:
1. Safety (consumer health): by new methods to reduce the use of antibiotics /medicines; improve disease resistance; zoonoses control; traceability of animals and products
2. Safety (product safety): stimulate and control hygienic processing, traceability of products and materials intended to come into contact with food
3. Animal welfare: animals kept according to rules/systems
4. Product quality: improved quality and composition; quality and chain control systems; traceability of animals and products
5. Environment: reducing environmental contamination, Nitrogen and Phosphorous. There is a critical look at the use of by-products of human food production. The re-use of by-products for non-food applications (feathers) should be encouraged.
6. Rural impact, economic effects and bio-diversity
At forehand it is good to realise that all producers have to meet the criteria and processes mentioned in the EU directives. There is no different treatment for producers in the EU as well as for those who would like to bring their products to the EU.
Directive 71/118/EEC (updated with directive 92/116/EEC) controls over the years the European vision on hygienic slaughtering of poultry and sets the infra structural goals for the poultry processing industry. It sets descriptive goals for management, building infra structure, equipment and utensils, inspection systems, refrigeration and storage, product temperature and product certification. It implicitly prohibits product decontamination ("only water of drinking water quality is allowed to be used as process water") and stimulates air (spray) chilling ("when immersion chilling is used a large number of specific demands have to be met"). It sets goals for the knowledge and experience of the veterinary inspectors and it defines quite specific what product deficits have to be declared unfit for human consumption.
In Regulation (EC) 854/2004, specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption are laid down. It includes ante- and post-mortem inspection, aspects of animal welfare, food chain information procedures as well as provision for laboratory testing.
Directive 98/37/EC (updating 89/392/EC) sets general conditions for machine manufacturers to place only equipment and systems on the market that can be operated in a safe (general) and hygienic (machines for the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry) way.
The new regulation, 178/2002/EC, in force since 2002, will not permit countries not to fulfil the requirements as described.
The EU Zoonosis Directive (2003/99/EEC) came into force in June 2004. Right now monitoring of 8 micro organisms in animals is mandatory (Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, VTEC- Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidium, Echinococcus, Trichinella, Brucella) and the risk related with these micro organisms should be evaluated.
Closely related with the Zoonosis Directive is Regulation 2160/2003, a framework regulation, with the primary aim to insure that effective measures will be taken to decrease the occurrence of Salmonella spp. of significance for public health in different categories of poultry and pigs.
Regulation EC 2073/2005 on microbiological criteria of foodstuffs covers two types of criteria: 1. Food Safety Criteria (these criteria cover the entire food production chain and "forces" producers to meet the criteria and indirectly may contribute to food safety and public health. Microbial criteria should not be considered without other aspects of EU food legislation such as HACCP principles and official controls to audit Food business operations) and 2. Process Hygiene Criteria (these criteria represent the indicator of the acceptable functioning of HACCP in food production systems. It sets indicative contamination levels above which corrective actions should be taken).
EU legislation in relation with poultry meat production is a fast and continuously developing field. As the number of EU member states has grown, there has been an urgent need to harmonize rules and regulations in order to create a level playing field.
References and further reading
Anon, 2007. EFSA Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards on microbiological criteria and targets based on risk analysis. EFSA Journal 2007: 462; 1-29
Anon, 2011. The European Union summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and food-borne outbreaks in 2009. EFSA Journal 2011, 9 (3), 2090
Directive 98/37/EC of the European parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to machinery
Directive 2003/99/EC of the European parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the monitoring of zoonoses and zoonotic agents, amending Council Decision 90/424/EEC and repealing Council Directive 92/117/EEC
HACCP in Meat, Poultry and Fish Processing, Advances in Meat Research, Vol 10, 1995, eds A.M. Pearson and T.R. Dutson, London, UK, Blackie Academic & Professional.
HACCP in the Meat Industry, 2000, ed M. Brown, Cambridge, UK, Woodhead Publishing
Hugas, M., 2005. Scientific structures in EFSA and the expertise required for Risk Assessment. XVIIth European Symposium on the Quality of Poultry Meat and XIth Symposium on the Quality of Eggs and Egg Products, Doorwerth, The Netherlands, 23-26 May.
Mead, G.C. et al. Scientific and technical factors affecting the setting of Salmonella criteria for raw poultry. Journal of Food Protection 73, 1566-1590
Microbial Control in the Meat Industry, EU Concerted Action CT 94 - 1456, 1997, Series Editors: M.H. Hinton, G.C. Mead and C. Rowlings, Bristol, UK, University of Bristol Press.
Mulder, R.W.A.W. and H. Hupkes, 2005. European Legislation in relation to poultry meat and eggs. Poultry Meat and Eggs Quality Symposium, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA, July 30-August 3.
Poultry meat processing and quality, 2004, ed G.C. Mead, Cambridge, UK, Woodhead Publishing
Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety
Regulation (EC) No 2160/2003 of the European parliament and of the Council of 1
November 2003 on the control of salmonella and other specified food-borne zoonotic agents
Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on hygiene of foodstuffs
Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 on the hygiene of food of animal origin
Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 of 29 April 2004 on specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption.
Regulation (EC) No 1003/2005 of 30 June 2005 implementing Regulation EC 2160/2003 as regards a Community target for the reduction of the prevalence of certain salmonella serotypes in breeding flocks of Gallus gallus and amending Regulation (EC) No 2160/2003
Regulation EC 2073/2005 of 15 November 2005 On microbiological criteria for foodstuffs
Regulation EC 1168/2006 of 31 July 2006, implementing Regulation EC 2160/2003 as regards a Community target for the reduction of the prevalence of certain Salmonella serotypes in laying hens of Gallus gallus and amending Regulation EC 1003/2005
Regulation EC 1177/2006 of 1 August 2006, implementing Regulation EC 2160/2003 as regards requirements for the use of specific control methods in the framework of the national programs for the control of Salmonella in poultry.
Watch Roel Mulder´s conference at the XXII Latin American Poultry Congress, 2011: