After 11 Years EC Submits to US Poultry

EU - The European Commission has today submitted to US pressure to allow poultry imports onto the European market, despite the fact that US carcases have been treated with antimicrobial substances.
calendar icon 29 May 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The Commission says it has set strict conditions for the antimicrobial treatment of poultry carcasses on the basis of which four antimicrobial substances could be used for in the decontamination process of poultry carcasses These substances will have to be used separately and not in combination and they would have to be used to treat whole poultry carcasses and not parts of carcasses or poultry cuts.

The businesses using the substances would also have to let consumers know, through labelling, that the poultry has been treated by one of these substances – they would have to label in a clearly legible way that the poultry has either been "treated with antimicrobial substances" or "decontaminated by chemicals."

Strict conditions for the management of waste water are also provided for in order to ensure the protection of the environment. Furthermore, the businesses using these substances shall collect data for monitoring and make the data available to the competent authorities.

The proposal also foresees that within 2 years from the date of application the authorisation and the conditions of their use will be mandatorily reviewed, in the light of further scientific data and, if appropriate, the Commission will propose for the regulation to be adapted.

Treatment of poultry carcasses

The Commission's proposal to implement a possibility opened in the current EU legislation (Regulation 853/2004), and provides for the conditions of use of these substances. All these substances have undergone a scientific evaluation by EFSA on their possible direct effects on consumers and all have received a favourable opinion in this regard.

An other important condition imposed on the operators is the rinsing of the poultry carcass with potable water after treatment. This rinsing has to take place before the carcasses enter the chilling or refrigerating rooms in order to have better results the effort to remove any possible residues of these substances on the carcasses.

Data collection

Businesses using the antimicrobial substances would have to collect data, for research and monitoring purposes, and make these data available to the competent authorities. The research to be carried out will concern the following issues:

  • Possible development of antimicrobial resistance at medium and long term as no effect as been observed in short term
  • The impact of the disposal of the waste water containing these substances on the environment
  • The possibility that resistant strains are developed in the waste water

Environmental conditions

The Commission's proposal also provides that those operators using the four substances would have to comply with certain waste water effluent quality standards. The solutions containing the substances should be discharged to an urban collection and treatment system or to industrial waste water following treatment.

Furthermore, where these substances are used, the competent authorities shall increase the frequency of official controls. The duration of these controls might also be increased. The competent authorities will have the right, on a case-by-case basis, to set additional conditions for the use of these substances.

SCoFCAH will vote on the proposal in one of its next meetings.

Technical change on the definitions and marketing standards for poultry meat

As a result of the proposal, a technical change must also be made to the rules on the definitions and marketing standards for poultry meat. This separate proposal, to amend an existing Regulation, will be sent to the Council and European Parliament. Under current arrangements, it would need an opinion from the Parliament and a qualified majority in Council. If it is not adopted until after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, it would be an issue for co-decision between the Council and Parliament.

At the same time, the Commission proposes to make a number of adjustments to bring the legislation up to date in the light of technical changes that have occurred since it was first adopted. These are not related to the issue of antimicrobial treatments.

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