Stricter penalties in the food sector: European Parliament adopts new rules on official controls

On 15 March 2017, the European Parliament adopted a codified legislation on official controls, which tightens rules on financial penalties, establishes more and better inspections, and creates a legal framework for the data processed during controls.

The new Regulation comes as a response to the horsemeat scandal which hit several EU Member States in 2013 when food labelled as containing beef turned out to contain horsemeat instead.

It does not only codify the set of existing rules on official controls, but concretely reinforces the entire system of controls within the agri-food chain.

One of the main changes brought by the new Regulation is the introduction of stricter rules on financial penalties in cases of infringements of the Regulation and in particular fraudulent or deceptive practices. The penalties will have to reflect at least the economic advantage for the operator or a percentage of the operator’s turnover.

Those financial penalties shall nevertheless be concretely determined at national level, EU Member States being indeed responsible for laying down, before the date of application of the Regulation, the rules on penalties applicable to infringements and for taking all necessary measures to implement them.

Further to the stricter rules on penalties, among other changes, the new Regulation also broadens the scope of application of areas subject to official controls in the agri-food chain, establishes unannounced risk-based controls and improves the rules on enforcement against food fraud.

The new Regulation shall apply from 14 December 2019, with the exception of certain rules – such as the methods used for sampling, analyses, test and diagnoses – of which the date of applicability will be specified soon.

The text is available: here, pending the publication in the Official Journal.