Food defense requirements in EU?

During the next meeting of the ENVI Committee (Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the EU Parliament), on 27-28th February, there will be an extremely interesting exchange of views with the EU Commission about the food defense topic.

This is a very very preliminary step and no specific initiative at EU level at the moment is foreseen, but for sure it could be a starting point in that sense.

Here below an extract from the ENVI Committee report, explaining where do we stand now:

“Food defense means the protection of food from intentional contamination or adulteration by biological, chemical, physical, or radiological agents. It includes measures regarding prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery from intentional acts of food contamination.

The WHO, in 2007, identified intentional food contamination as one of the main global health threats of the 21st century and stated that food has become an instrument for terrorist attacks.

In the European food industry, food defense is a rather new concept, unlike in the USA where the concept of food defense originated and where it is extensively regulated. In the past years, incidents such as terrorist attacks and food fraud have contributed to the development and implementation of food defense systems in at least some Member States.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in 2001 in the US, the “Health and Security Committee” was set up in the EU. This group was given a formal status and assigned specific tasks in 2013, when Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats was adopted. At global level, the Commission also participates in the Global Health Security Initiative on CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threats, working closely with the WHO and the G7+ states to create a global strategy for preparedness and response to potential health threats.

However, there is no comprehensive regulation of food defense at EU level. In view of the rising importance of the issue, the objective of this exchange of views is to discuss existing EU and Member State policies and to hear the Commission’s point of view in relation to possible EU action in this area.”

(Source: ENVI Committee, European Parliament)

EU Commission report on food intended for sportspeople

The report, published on 15th June 2016, is intended to meet the obligation set for the Commission by Article 13 of Regulation (EU) No 609/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on food intended for infants and young children, food for special medical purposes, and total diet replacement for weight control (hereinafter ‘FSG Regulation’). According to this Article, the Commission is required to present to the European Parliament and to the Council, after consulting the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), a report on the necessity, if any, of provisions for food intended for sportspeople (hereinafter ‘sports food’).

The request for this report is linked to the repeal by the FSG Regulation of the framework on foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses, as of 20 July 2016. This framework was established by a Council Directive in 1989 and completed by the recast Directive 2009/39/EC.

Sports food can currently be classified either (1) as ‘foodstuff intended for particular nutritional uses’ under Directive 2009/39/EC or (2) as food for normal consumption governed by relevant horizontal rules of food law. The FSG Regulation does not include sports food within its scope, since it focuses on foods for certain vulnerable groups of consumers.

Thus, since a categorisation as foodstuff intended for particular nutritional uses will no longer be available to sports food, this type of food will be exclusively governed by horizontal rules of food law as from 20 July 2016.

This report reflects on potential consequences of the change of status for sports food.

It builds upon a market study carried out by the Food Chain Evaluation Consortium (FCEC Study) between January 2015 and June 2015. In the context of the preparation of this report, a consultation was carried out with national competent authorities and other interested parties.

The European Commission consulted the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which provided scientific and technical assistance regarding sports food. EFSA compiled existing scientific advice in the area of nutrition and health claims and Dietary References Values for adults that are relevant to sportspeople and informed the Commission that its subsequent advice does not differ from the recommendations of the Report of the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) adopted in 2001 on composition and specification of food intended to meet the expenditure of intense muscular effort, especially for sportsmen.

Here below, the conclusions:

“There are clear indications that sport has become mainstream in the general population. Consequently, people carrying out sports activity can hardly be characterised as a specific vulnerable group of consumers but rather as a target group of the general population who is protected at an appropriate level by horizontal legislation.

In view of the growing completion of the horizontal rules of food law which took place in the last years, an appropriate legislative framework is in place to ensure that sports food classified nowadays as food intended for particular nutritional uses can remain on the market and can operate. The horizontal rules of food law provide the necessary safeguards for these products in terms of food safety, food composition, consumer information and legal certainty. As a result, not only all sports food products will be subject to the same legal requirements but they will have the same level of harmonisation as other foods falling under the horizontal rules of food law. It is expected that, through the simplification and clarification of the legal framework applicable for sports food, legal certainty will be enhanced and the current fragmentation based on the different legal frameworks reduced.

From this analysis, it can be concluded that there is no necessity for specific provisions for food intended for sportspeople. Nevertheless, sports food may include some element of specificity and the analysis in this report shows that this may have to be taken into account by the Commission in the application and implementation of the horizontal rules, so that such specificities can be adequately addressed. The Commission will ensure proper application of horizontal legislation and monitor the developments after 20 July 2016.”

(Source: DG Sante website)