The European Parliament has approved a proposed regulation tightening and harmonising EU food and animal feed controls.

As it informally agreed amendments in advance with EU ministers, the law is now expected to be rubber-stamped, to come into force on 1 January, 2006. One change insists that national governments erect “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” sanctions to breaches of these controls and another says relevant information held by food authorities must be publicised quickly, except data “covered by professional secrecy”.

The regulation says competent national authorities will henceforth be subject to EU performance criteria and member countries will have to abide by harmonised EU-wide rules on designing and developing control systems. This includes management blueprints covering staff training, documentation and internal audits for instance.

Unusually, the legislation gives Brussels powers to force a Member State to improve controls, which it deems too weak.