Today [Thursday] the Agriculture Council reached political agreement on the proposed animal health rules for the production, processing, distribution and introduction into the European Union of products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

The draft law is part of the hygiene package presented by the European Commission in 2000, which will give food operators primary responsibility for food safety right through the food chain from farm to fork. It simplifies and strengthens animal health requirements inside the EU and requirements for the introduction of goods of animal origin intended for human consumption into the EU from other countries.

The proposal that was agreed by Council today lays down animal health rules for products of animal origin such as fresh meat, meat products, poultry, rabbit, game meat, milk and milk products. The total prohibition on introducing products not conforming to EU animal health requirements will mean that transit and storage of such goods will no longer be allowed once the Directive is implemented by Member States. However, transhipment, i.e. direct movements between planes or ships in the same airport or port, may continue to be allowed by Member States.

The proposed Directive recasts seven existing Directives concerning animal health rules for trade and import of products of animal origin. It is intended to simplify existing rules while strengthening animal health guarantees for such products. Since nearly all the implementing rules in this area are already well established, the proposal has been changed from a Regulation to a Directive and has been drafted as a rather short and flexible piece of legislation. In addition, this text will provide the legal basis to amend existing import conditions.

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