A new targeted approach to veterinary and phytosanitary agreements between the EU and third countries is to be taken by the European Commission following the emergence of a number of “practical problems” in existing deals. The agreements were designed to ensure that food imported into the EU measured up to the requirements of the Union’s new food safety legislation.

In practice the agreements – signed so far with New Zealand, Canada, the USA and the Czech Republic – have led to problems. For instance, problems have arisen with the US over “regionalisation” – for instance the Americans want to bar all Spanish pork because of classic swine fever but the EU says the ban should apply only to certain regions – and with Canada over the registration of meat-exporting establishments in the EU.

The new policy will be restricted to “a limited number of products of undoubted importance to the parties, and where we are reasonably confident that equivalence (i.e. advantages for both sides) can be achieved,” said EU health and consumer affairs Commissioner David Byrne.

By Alan Osborn, just-food.com correspondent