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Official feed & food (Animal Health & Welfare) controls
The European Union (EU) White Paper on Food Safety was published in January 2000. It identified the need to establish a European Community-wide framework for official controls.
The resulting Regulation ((EC) No 882/2004) (external link) was devised. It provided a more comprehensive and integrated, risk-based, EU-wide, "farm to table" approach to official controls in the areas of feed, food, animal health and animal welfare. Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 aims to improve the consistency and effectiveness of official controls across the European Community. Consequently, it aims to raise standards of food safety, consumer protection, prevention of the spread of animal diseases, and the humane treatment of animals. It also aims to provide a greater degree of transparency for consumers about enforcement arrangements.
Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 deals with arrangements for the monitoring of, compliance with, and enforcement of feed and food law and animal health and animal welfare legislation. It sets out the general approach to be taken. It states the principles that need to be adopted by the competent authorities of EU Member States that have responsibility for undertaking official controls. It also provides the legal basis for the European Commission to carry out assessments of the effectiveness of national enforcement arrangements.
We have national legislation to implement Regulation (EC) No 882/2004, particularly the animal health and welfare elements. The legal measures needed to apply Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 are included in the Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food) (Wales) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2007/196 (W.15)) (external link). Parallel legislation has been made in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Regulations came into force in Wales on 31 January 2007. They complement the Food Standards Agency's Official Feed and Food Controls (Wales) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/590 (W.66)) (external link).
The Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food) (Wales) Regulations 2006 designate the competent authorities responsible for carrying out official controls in relation to animal health and welfare rules, and for certain feed and food law requirements. These are the National Assembly for Wales and Local Authorities (including where the latter act as food authorities in the areas covered by the Regulations).
The Regulations also provide powers in respect of:
- the sharing of information between competent authorities
- auditors to enter farmers' and other businesses' premises and to inspect documents in order to carry out audits of enforcement activity by a competent authority
- the National Assembly for Wales to require audits of Local Authorities
- powers for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) auditors to enter premises, inspect documents etc, when carrying out audits on behalf of the Welsh Government
- inspectors appointed by the National Assembly for Wales, and by Local Authorities when exercising their existing powers of entry, to bring with them European Commission experts and officials from other Member States' competent authorities
- facilitating assistance by the UK to other Member States where feed or food law has been breached
- providing a legal basis for the recovery of expenses in certain cases of non-compliance.
In addition, the Official Controls (Animals, Feed and Food) (Wales) Regulations 2006 make it an offence to obstruct auditors, inspectors and those accompanying them, and enforcement officers, i.e. those enforcing the provisions of the S.I. It is also an offence to provide false or misleading information to an auditor, an inspector or an enforcement officer. The penalty on summary conviction for the offences is a fine at level 5 of the standard scale (currently £5,000), or three months' imprisonment, or both.