Within this section, you will find details of the legislation and official controls relating to the EU-RL, Competent Authority, NRL, and OCL.
Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 of The European Parliament and of the Council of 29th April 2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules provides legislation to ensure feed and food is safe and wholesome.
The Regulation establishes a harmonised framework of rules for Member States to adhere to at a Community level. It also provides the legal basis for the European Commission to assess the effectiveness of national arrangements for official controls.
Regulation (EC) No. 776/2006 amends Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 regarding Community Reference Laboratories (CRLs).
Commission Regulation (EC) No. 669/2009 of 24 July 2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the increased level of official controls on imports of certain feed and food of non-animal origin and amending Decision 2006/504/EC.
Commission Regulation (EU) No. 187/2011 of 25 February 2011 amending Annex I to Regulation (EC) No. 669/2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the increased level of official controls on imports of certain feed and food of non-animal origin. This Regulation shall enter into force on the third day following its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. It shall apply from 1 April 2011.
The aim is to create a more comprehensive, integrated, risk-based, EU-wide, "farm to fork" approach to official controls.
The European Commission requires each EU member state to appoint a Competent Authority (CA) for administration of EU regulations. The UK competent authorities responsible for official controls in respect of feed and food law are designated formally in domestic legislation that gives effect to Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 at a national level.
In the UK, responsibility for official feed and food controls is held centrally. In practice responsibility for monitoring and verifying compliance (official controls) and enforcement of feed and food law is divided between central and local authorities. Most enforcement for food (including imported food) is carried out by local and port health authorities (this involves 469 local authorities). Local Government Regulation (formerly the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services, LACORS), as part of the Local Government Group, is the local government central body responsible for overseeing local authority regulatory and related services in the UK.
Defra (and its agencies) and the Agriculture/Rural Affairs Departments in the Devolved Administrations have responsibility between them for feed and food legislation that falls outside the FSA or local authority remit. This includes standards for organic products.
Different governmental authorities may administer different designated functions. For Fera NRLs, the Competent Authorities for food and feed, pesticides and veterinary medicinal products vary. The relevant Competent Authority can be found under each NRL area.
Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 stipulates that each Member State should establish and implement a multi-annual National Control Plan (NCP). This NCP should cover the national official feed and food, and animal health and welfare control and plant health arrangements, and provide an overview of how these authorities and other bodies work together and set out the strategic objectives and the planned activities of the various authorities for the period of the plan.
The National Control Plan for the United Kingdom has been prepared jointly by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Scottish Government Rural Directorate (SG RD), the Welsh Assembly Government Department for Rural Affairs (RA) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARD).
These are specifically defined for the purposes of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 at Article 2(1). They are checks carried out by the competent authorities in the Member States to monitor compliance by feed and food businesses with the requirements set out in 'feed law' and 'food law'. These checks might include inspections, audits, sampling and analysis.
Official controls also relate to the checks carried out by the European Commission's Inspection Services (e.g. Food and Veterinary Office FVO) to assess the performance of national control authorities and national control systems.
More information is available from the Food Standards Agency EU Official Feed and Food Controls regulation: Guidance for enforcement authorities in the form of Detailed Q&A Notes for enforcement authorities on the feed and food elements.
Copies of UK legal instruments may be downloaded from legislation.gov.uk
The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) provides an effective tool for exchange of information on measures taken to ensure food safety. In 2009, the RASFF Portal website and its new online searchable database of RASFF notifications were opened.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is a member of the RASFF network and the FSA Incidents Branch is the UK contact point for RASFF notifications.
EU-RLs are appointed by the Commission. EU-RLs assist the harmonisation process by increasing the current analytical scope through the EU in quantity and quality of the results. Summarising Article 32 of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004, EU-RLs for feed and food are responsible for providing National Reference Laboratories with details of analytical methods, including reference methods and application of advances, organising comparative testing and follow-up, conducting training courses and providing scientific and technical assistance to the European Commission.
For each specialist EU-RL there is a corresponding NRL designated by each EU Member State.
Commission Regulation (EC) No. 776/2006 amends Annex VII to Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004 as regards Community Reference Laboratories.
The European Commission has created a network of National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) coordinated by the EU-RLs. This network of laboratories is responsible for setting up EU-wide standards for routine procedures and reliable testing methods in the areas of feed and food and animal health. Each Member State must designate an NRL to correspond to each EU-RL, although the NRL does not have to be located in the designating Member State. These laboratories must collaborate with the EU-RL in their particular area of expertise and disseminate nationally information provided by the EU-RL. In addition, they provide scientific and technical assistance to the national competent authorities.
The UK National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) network is responsible for setting up EU-wide standards for routine procedures and reliable testing methods in the areas of feed and food and animal health. Core functions of the appointed UK NRLs are effectively those cited in Article 33 of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004. According to Article 33 of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004, duties of the NRLs include collaboration with the EU-RLs and coordination of the activities of official laboratories, organisation of comparative tests and ensuring appropriate follow-up, dissemination to the competent authority and official national laboratories information that the EU-RLs supply, provision of scientific and technical assistance.
The overall objective of the EU-RLs and NRLs is to improve the quality, accuracy and comparability of the results at Official Control Laboratories. EU-RLs establish a network between EU-RLs - NRLs - OCLs.
Full details of UK NRLs can be found in the Appendices of the UK National Control Plan.
Competent Authorities designate Official Control Laboratories (OCLs) for the purposes of chemical analysis or microbiological examination of feed or food samples taken by enforcement practitioners. Control Bodies are independent third party organisations to which specific control tasks have been delegated by the Competent Authority. Delegated tasks might include chemical analysis, inspection, or sampling. The Competent Authority retains the responsibility for the work and for taking any formal enforcement action should non-compliance be found. Control bodies are subject to audit or inspection by the Competent Authorities in respect of the control tasks delegated to them.
Designation may only be granted if the laboratory meets certain standards (i.e. is accredited to the European Standards specified in Article 12 of Regulation (EC) No. 882/2004). In the UK, accreditation is undertaken by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) publishes a List of Official Feed and Food Control Laboratories in the UK that undertake chemical analysis or microbiological examination of samples on behalf of local authorities and district councils. The European Commission is notified of the list under Council Directive 93/99/EEC. The Food Standards Agency does not own or operate any of these laboratories. Any enquiries should be directed to the laboratory itself. In the UK, many of the Official Control Laboratories are Public Analyst Laboratories. The Association of Public Analysts (APA) website gives contact details.