European Commission

UK grower and trade representatives have welcomed a landmark package proposed by the European Commission to cut the regulatory burden and strengthen enforcement of standards across the food chain.

The new deal could be in place in just three years time and has been lauded by the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The Commission adopted the measures on Monday and aims to simplify more than 60 pieces of legislation relating to food and plant health into just five. Smaller businesses would also be made exempt from some of the cost elements of the new package.

Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the FPC said: “FPC has lobbied vigorously for a risk-based approach to EU regulation including regionalisation and a shift of inspection effort from fresh produce to plants and propagating material. We are delighted that the Commission has confirmed that it will take on board industry recommendations as part of the package to update plant health regulation. The jury is still out on how far they will take this, and we continue to have discussions with both Fera and the Food Standards Agency on how the regulations will be implemented in practice.”

The new package follows a more risk-based approach, which will allow the authorities in member states to focus resources on the more relevant issues and should see businesses benefit from simpler, science and risk-based rules.

To prevent new pests from establishing in the EU and to protect plant growers, the Commission proposes to upgrade the existing plant health regime with focus placed on high-risk trade coming from third countries and increased traceability of planting material on the internal market. The legislation also introduces better surveillance and early eradication of outbreaks of new pest species and financial compensation for growers hit by such quarantine pests.

The package also provides more simplified and flexible rules for the marketing of seeds to introduce broader choice including new improved and tested varieties.

NFU crops adviser James Mills said: “It is still early days and the devil will be in the details, but the cost-saving elements are fantastic and is exactly what the Commission should be doing.”

Other EU institutions, including the European Parliament and the Council will consider the Commission's package of measures and will adopt their positions in due course. The Commission estimates the package will enter into force in 2016.