FOOD SAFETY : CONTROVERSY OVER RESIDUES OF VETERINARY SUBSTANCES IN FOOD.
The draft regulation that seeks to limit consumer exposure to pharmacologically active substances not authorised in the European Union in food of animal origin has raised an outcry in many member states. They criticise the European Commission for introducing a mechanism they claim is too favourable to producers from non-EU countries. The Commission responds that by setting a limit close to zero, which can be detected by ordinary analytical equipment, it hopes to stem the competition between laboratories for increasingly sophisticated analyses, which is resulting in sharp increases in testing prices.
In spite of the complexity of this very technical issue, MEPs have filed over 100 amendments to the draft report by Avril Doyle (EPP-ED, Germany) on the establishment of residue limits of pharmacologically active substances in foodstuffs of animal origin. The text will be debated on 8 April by members of the European Parliament's Committee on Environment and Food Safety.
The proposal has sparked lively debate in Council for the past several months. A large majority of member states, including France and Germany, oppose the idea of setting up a procedure for the creation of reference points for action' (RPA) for substances that are prohibited or not authorised in the Union. "That suggests that we are going to treat non-EU producers more favourably by giving them more latitude to use substances that we prohibit," says one expert, explaining the political importance attached to this matter in recent weeks. For turkey breeders, for example, this would be the case for certain treatments used to prevent histomoniasis that are banned in the EU but authorised in the United States.
"VERY CLEAR PROCEDURES"
To convince the member states that its proposal has merit and does not aim to open the door to prohibited substances, the Commission recently drew up a non-paper' explaining its position. "The proposal introduces very clear procedures for setting RPAs at the lowest possible levels of detection by routine analytical methods in a sufficient number of laboratories in Europe," it states. "In some cases, an expert opinion on consumers' exposure may be requested of the European Food Safety Authority." Some member states would like to see the EFSA give its opinion on a systematic basis. The Commission goes on to note that the RPAs would be the "practical implementation" of the zero tolerance policy for banned substances. In chemistry, it continues, zero does not exist. "All interpretations of zero depend on the performance" of the analytical methods. These reference thresholds would therefore make it possible to end the fierce competition between laboratories, which are capable of providing increasingly refined analyses, but at ever-rising prices.
During recent food crises, notes the Commission, certain banned substances such as chloramphenicol (a toxic antibiotic) and nitrofurans in 2002 and 2003 were detected in products by some laboratories but not by others, in products coming from a single lot.
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|Date:||Apr 17, 2008|
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