Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Ninth Report



10. CONTROL AND PREVENTION OF ZOONOSES

 

(22673)

11405/01

COM(01) 452

(a)

Commission Report on the measures to be put in force for the control and prevention of zoonoses.

(b)

Draft Directive on the monitoring of zoonoses and zoonotic agents, amending Council Decision 90/424/EEC and repealing Council Directive 92/117/EEC.

(c)

Draft Regulation on the control of salmonella and other food-borne zoonotic agents and amending Council Directives 64/432/EEC, 72/462/EEC and 90/539/EEC.

Legal base:

(b) and (c) Article 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting

   

Department:

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

SEM and Minister's letter of 16 August 2002

Minister's letters of 11 and 17 October 2002

Previous Committee Report:

HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 9 (21 November 2001)

To be discussed in Council:

27-29 November 2002

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

Cleared

 

Background

    1.  In order to prevent outbreaks of food-borne infections, Council Directive 92/117/EEC[53] lays down measures for protecting against specified zoonoses[54] in animals and products of animal origin. In particular, these include rules for the collection of information on the incidence of disease, its transmission each year to the Commission, and an obligation on Member States to inform the Commission of the national measures they are taking to address specified zoonoses, with special emphasis in the latter case being placed on salmonella in both breeding and rearing poultry flocks.
    2. As we noted in our Report of 21 November 2001, the Commission produced in August of that year a report reviewing the operation of this Directive and of other control measures[55] affecting different stages of the food chain.
    3. This said that the data collected still suffered from unharmonised surveillance systems, making it difficult to draw conclusions on trends within the Community, but that two zoonoses — salmonella and campylobacter — accounted for the major part of the "significant" number of reported cases of human illnesses, with the types of salmonella most prevalent in humans (S. Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium) being those most frequently associated with eggs or poultry, followed by other meat products, notably pork. It also pointed out that, although the control measures under Council Directive 92/117/EEC at present cover only poultry breeding flocks, it was envisaged that this approach would at some future date be extended to commercial flocks.
    4. The Commission's report also said that not all Member States had been able to submit plans for the monitoring and control of breeding flocks, but that nevertheless effective measures had in the main been taken, with the incidence of salmonella appearing to have stabilised in many Member States. Despite this, the Commission remained concerned that the incidence of human infection remained high, and that new threats were emerging. It therefore believed that further measures were needed, to create a system where more comparable data was available; to take account of the prevalence of zoonotic agents in the different Member States; to introduce national disease reduction programmes, based on common targets; and to address the spread of zoonotic agents through intra-Community and third country animal trade.
    5. The Commission's report was accompanied by two legislative proposals — one setting out revised requirements for the monitoring of zoonoses, and the other revised measures to control salmonella and other food-borne diseases.
    6. The proposal on monitoring would build upon the systems established under Council Directive 92/117/EEC, but would make a number of changes to establish common criteria for data collection and monitoring, extend the list of zoonotic agents covered, and give priority to those posing the greatest risk to human health. Food businesses would be required to keep results of testing, and (when requested) to pass these on to the designated competent authority; and food-borne disease outbreaks would be investigated to identify their cause, the foodstuff involved, and (where possible) epidemiological and microbiological studies.
    7. The second proposal would set Community disease reduction targets, in particular for salmonella in poultry and pigs, but with provision for other zoonoses and stages in the food chain to be selected, according to such criteria as their occurrence in humans, animals, food and feed, their gravity in humans, and their economic consequences. These targets would be set by the Commission within a time frame ranging from 31 December 2003 to 31 December 2006, and Member States would have to draw up the necessary control programmes.
    8. More specifically:

    • breeding flocks of hens found to be infected with S. enteritidis or S. typhimurium would be compulsorily slaughtered;

    • hatching eggs from those flocks would have to be destroyed, used for the manufacture of egg products, or subjected to equivalent treatment to eliminate salmonella infection.

As from 1 January 2008, eggs from laying flocks infected with S. enteritidis or S. typhimurium, or from flocks of unknown salmonella status could only be used for the manufacture of egg products, or subjected to equivalent treatment to eradicate these two salmonella types, and the flocks would have to be destroyed in accordance with the rules laid down; and, as from 1 January 2009, fresh poultry meat would only be able to be placed on the market in the absence of salmonella in 25 grammes, unless destined for industrial heat treatment or equivalent to eliminate salmonella.

    1. In our Report, we noted that the proposals generally reflect the Government's aims, but that it believed that the introduction of national control programmes, and the need for national authorities to approve industry-led control programmes, would have considerable resource implications, since the general practice to date has been to encourage the industry to adopt assurance schemes and control plans, supported by voluntary codes of practice.
    2. The Government also identified the need to clarify whether the proposals required the slaughter of laying flocks as soon as infection with S. enteritidis or S. typhimurium was suspected, or at the end of the laying period — a policy of immediate slaughter having previously been abandoned in the UK on the grounds that it was not cost effective, and that any public health risks could be effectively managed by controlling the vertical spread of salmonella from breeding to commercial flocks.
    3. The Government also provided a draft initial Regulatory Impact Assessment, though this did little more than note the Commission's estimate that the annual cost of human cases of food-borne salmonellosis across the Community as a whole was between _560 million and 2,840 million. However, it foresaw cost increases for UK businesses in complying with the minimum requirements of national control programmes, and from the cost of lost production, the reduced price realised for eggs for further processing, and the cost of replacement birds. The Government said that an updated Assessment would be provided, once its consultation exercise on the proposals has been completed.
    4. In our conclusion, we commented that, although salmonellosis does not perhaps attract quite the same public attention as diseases such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, it was nevertheless a significant source of illness in humans. In principle, therefore, steps to reduce its incidence were very welcome, though a key consideration would be the relationship between the likely costs and benefits. We said that we would return to the subject once we had received the updated Regulatory Impact Assessment.
    5. Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 16 August 2002

    6. In his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 16 August 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley) has highlighted two significant developments since his original Explanatory Memorandum submitted on 24 October 2001. First, the Danish Presidency has proposed certain criteria to identify those salmonella serotypes other than S. enteritidis or S. typhimurium likely to be of public health significance: these include occurrence in human and animal populations, feed and food; gravity in humans; economic consequences for animal and human health care, and for feed and food businesses; epidemiological trends in animal and human populations, feed and food; scientific advice; technological developments, particularly as regards the practicality of available control options; and requirements and trends concerning breeding systems and production methods. The Presidency has also suggested that, when proposing each Community target for pathogen reduction, the Commission should provide an analysis of the expected costs and benefits.
    7. Secondly, it is now clear that, with the exception of the continuing programme of obligatory slaughter with compensation for breeding flocks of domestic hens, national control plans will not have to include compulsory slaughter of salmonella-positive animals. However, the Minister says that the industry has indicated that the requirement (as from 1 January 2008) that eggs from salmonella-positive flocks or those of unknown salmonella status should only be used for human consumption after suitable treatment, such as pasteurisation, to eliminate salmonella means that there would be no market for these eggs in the UK. In these circumstances, it considers that slaughter would be the only viable option.
    8. The Minister has also provided a further Regulatory Impact Assessment. This points to the costs (identified in paragraph 10.11 above) arising across the Community as a whole from human cases of salmonellosis, and to the large number of people in the UK affected by infectious intestinal disease each year, resulting in costs in England alone of at least 750 million a year, borne largely by employers and the NHS. It says that the proposals are likely to benefit consumers by reducing the number of salmonella cases and also the industry by increasing consumer confidence both within the UK and in export markets. In addition, the measures would be likely to assist in controlling other zoonoses.
    9. So far as the compliance costs are concerned, the Assessment points out that the monitoring required under the proposed Directive would be based primarily on existing systems, and is thus unlikely to result in any additional costs. As regards the additional control measures in the proposed Regulation, it points out that the industry already has to meet the costs of sampling and testing for salmonella in breeding flocks, and that, in the case of the broiler and turkey industries, many of the measures needed are already in place for general disease control purposes. Consequently, although it is not possible at this stage to be precise, it suggests that the additional costs for these sectors are unlikely to be high. However, the costs for the laying industry — which would arise from additional testing and monitoring, the need to reassure consumers by slaughtering birds in infected laying flocks, and the disposal of unwanted eggs and of carcases — and for the pig industry, are likely to be more significant, and will depend upon whether the control measures target only S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium, or apply also to other salmonella types. Thus, it is suggested that the additional costs for the laying sector would range from 1.25 million to 26 million a year, whilst those for the pig industry would be between 17.75 million and 32.75 million, though in each case the Assessment also stresses that the proposal envisages a substantial phasing-in period.
    10. The Minister also refers in his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum and in his covering letter to various matters relating to the timing of these proposals. He says that the first reading of the European Parliament took place on 15 May 2002, and that many of the amendments it proposed were not in line with UK policy objectives. However, he adds that most of those of major concern have largely been rejected by the Commission or resolved by the introduction of acceptable wording in the draft texts. The Minister also says that progress has accelerated under the Danish Presidency, and that he now anticipated that, as a result of recent developments, the UK would be able to support the text being put forward for agreement at the Agriculture Council on 14-15 October, notwithstanding the absence of scrutiny clearance due to the Parliamentary recess.
    11. This was confirmed in a letter he sent on 11 October, but a further letter on 17 October, indicated that in the event, the Council was not able to reach a Common Position this month, and that it is now expected consider the proposal on 27-29 November.
    12. Conclusion

    13. Since we had seen or heard nothing of this proposal between the Minister's Explanatory Memoranda of 24 October 2001 and 16 August 2002, we were somewhat surprised to learn of the outcome of the European Parliament's first reading in May, but we have noted the Minister's comments on this. We have also noted that, although a text acceptable to the UK seemed likely to be put forward for agreement at this month's Agriculture Council, and that the Government would have supported this notwithstanding the absence of scrutiny clearance, a decision has been postponed until next month.
    14. We will of course want the Minister to let us know the eventual outcome, but, in the meantime, we are now clearing the document on the basis of the information he has supplied. In particular, we note that, although it will entail certain costs, particularly for the laying sector and the pig industry, there would in each case be a lengthy phasing-in period. Moreover, any such costs would of course have to be weighed against the expected public health benefits.

 


53   OJ No. L 62, 15.3.93, p.38. Back

54   Diseases transmissible from animals to man. Back

55   These include Directive 90/667/EEC on animal waste, Directive 92/118/EEC on feed processing ingredients of animal origin, various controls at farm level, notably Council Directive 64/432/EEC on movements of animals with bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis, Council Directive 92/46/EEC on the health rules governing milk production; and controls in the corresponding hygiene directives affecting the processing and distribution of foodstuffs of animal origin. Back

 
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