A new report on animal by-products (ABPs) outlines additional proposed regulations governing how processors may dispose of or sell the left over materials produced by their plants.
ABPs are animal carcasses, parts of carcasses and other products of animal origin, such as milk, which are not intended for human consumption.
The wide ranging proposals include allowing the use of additional disposal methods and techniques, giving food processors more flexibility in the use of third party contractors.
They also seek to clarify and simplify the rules in a bid to ensure their application is consistent throughout the EU.
The EU's ABP regulation, applicable since 1 May 2003, was adopted in response to various food-borne crises, include BSE and foot-and-mouth diseases. The regulation not only prohibited the feedingof animal parts to livestock but also laid down the health rules for the handling, processing, use and disposal of ABPs.
ABP's are a regular product of the livestock and food industries and include animals which die on farm, surplus or waste material from slaughterhouses, and a range of surplus or rejected foodstuffsand leftovers, whether cooked or uncooked.
Some of these animal by- products are sold or used by food processors to make animal proteins, such as meat and bone meal, fats, gelatine, collagen, pet-food. They are also used to make productssuch as glue, leathers, soaps, fertilisers, cosmetics. medicinal products, medical devices such as laboratory reagents, soil improvers, oleo-chemical products and photographic paper coating.
The 2003 regulation prohibits the disposal of animal by-products to landfill. Instead they must be treated at an approved rendering, incinerator, biogas or composting plant.
In its report the Commission finds that member states' compliance with the EU rules has been generally "satisfactory". However changes are needed to some aspects of the regulation inorder to clarify its scope, make measures more proportionate to the risks, and remove unnecessary obstacles to the competitiveness of industry, the Commission stated yesterday.
"Some requirements may be disproportionate when it comes to very low risk products, for example processed ingredients used in cosmetics, while there is a need to insert new products underthe different risk categories," the Commission stated. "In addition, there are areas where there is uncertainty about the scope, the requirements of the regulation or possibleduplication with other legislation, and clarification is needed."
The Commission is seeking comments on the report and plans to submit a number of proposals for amendments to the regulation by the start of 2007.
The EU's food sector produces about 16 million tonnes of materials of animal origin not intended for human consumption, the bulk of which derive from healthy animals.
Some of these materials are then transformed in a variety of products used in animal feed, cosmetics, medicinal products, medical devices such as laboratory reagents, fertilisers, soil improver,oleo-chemical products, photographic paper coating.
More and more materials are being imported from third countries for similar uses into the EU, the Commission reported.
The original regulation was brought in because ABPs in animal feed can spread BSE and other animal diseases or spread chemical contaminants such as dioxins. ABPs can also pose a threat to animaland human health via the environment, if not properly disposed of.
Under the regulation, only materials derived from animal declared fit for human consumption following veterinary inspection may be used for the production of feeds.
It also bans intra-species recycling, so-called "cannibalism". It sets out clear rules on what must and may be done with the excluded animal materials, imposing strict identification andtraceability system requiring certain products such as meat and bone meal and fats destined for destruction to be permanently marked to avoid possible fraud and risk of diversion of unauthorisedproducts into food and feed.
It lays down the requirements for the importation and transit from non-Member countries of certain animal by-products and derived products.
The Commission proposes to amend the definitions for ABPs not yet covered, stating that there is a need to clarify the definition of certain ABPs so as to ensure a common application of the regulationin member countries.
One example is the scope of the definition for "former foodstuffs" products of animal origin or containing them, which are no longer intended for human consumption for different reasons.
The Commission also wants to clarify EU veterinary and waste legislation applicable to ABPs.
Member states and operators have lobbied the EU on this issue saying they want to avoid duplication and any resulting unnecessary burden due to the concurrent application to ABPs of communityveterinary and waste legislation.
EU veterinary procedures fall under the responsibility of health and consumer directorate, while waste legislation falls under the environmental directorate.
"Guidance has been issued which seeks to clarify the relationship between the two sets of controls," the Commission stated. "However, more legal clarity is needed."
The Commission proposes five alternatives methods for the processing, use and disposal of ABPs. The Commission also wants to clarify the relationship between different regulations relating to wasteshipments.
Due to complaints about the strictness of the regulation relating to composting and biogas plants and heat treatment process for manure, the Commission proposes to allow for alternativetransformation parameters, such as time, temperature and microbiological validation agents.
An amendment to a regulation this year allowing the direct feeding to farmed animals of dairy products produced to food standards also needs to be amended to meet food safety requirements, theCommission stated.
The ABPs regulation does not currently apply to finished products, such as cosmetic products, medicinal products, medical devices or in-vitro diagnostics.
However, the ABPs regulation has an important regulatory impact on these sectors. The Commission wants to simplify the application of the regulation to those sectors.