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Quick-frozen food processors face tougher rules

By Ahmed ElAmin , 21-Jul-2006

The UK's food regulator has published a draft law for quick-frozen foodstuffs, amending existing requirements on sampling procedures and official methods of temperatures analysis.

When the law comes into effect, it will bring the UK's legislation into line with more stringent EU requirements for quick-frozen foods. The EU is attempting to make food safer.

It is also attempting to unify food standards across the bloc, makeing easier for processors to trade between member states.

Quick-frozen foodstuffs are products that have been rapidly cooled to retain natural flavor, nutritional value, or other properties. Processors often use authorised cryogenic media such as nitrogen or carbon dioxide to achieve temperatures of -18C or colder in the foods.

The UK draft regulations amend and consolidate existing requirements on conditions that must be fulfilled for quick-frozen foodstuffs under Council directive 89/108/EEC, existing European Commission directive 92/2/EEC on sampling procedures and temperature analysis, as well as Commission regulation 37/2005 outlining new requirements for temperature monitoring equipment.

The draft law was published for consultation yesterday by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Regulation 37/2005 requires that all new temperature monitoring equipment and instruments used in the transport, warehousing and storage of quick-frozen foods must comply with three European standards from 1 January 2006. Existing equipment complying with previous legislation can continue to be used only until 31 December 2009.

New temperature monitoring requirements applied from 1 January 2006 to the transport of quick-frozen foods by rail.

Food operators must also keep all relevant documents allowing regulators to check that equipment conforms to the relevant standards.

Retail display cabinets, transport in the course of local distribution, and coldstore facilities with capacity of less than 10m3 used for storing stock in retail outlets, are exempted from the legislation.

The FSA noted that the regulations and directives apply even if food is not being described by the manufacturer as 'quick-frozen'.

'Quick-frozen' is an optional description, so legal requirements only apply to foods meeting the definition and if they are labelled as 'quick-frozen', the FSA stated.

Standards relating to the instruments used for monitoring and recording air temperatures have been established by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).

A new Commission Regulation, 37/2005, published on 12 January 2005, repeals and replaces Directive 92/1/EEC from 1 January 2006 and requires temperature monitoring equipment to achieve common CEN standards.

The CEN standards are a little more exacting than the specifications laid down for temperature monitoring equipment in the UK's national regulations and bring in safety electrical and performance requirements under more severe conditions of use, the FSA stated.

The deadline for comments is 2 November 2006.

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