Food Law News - EU - 2011

Commission Midday Express, 18 October 2011

FOOD SAFETY - EU prolongs temporary ban on imports of Egyptian seeds until the end of March 2012

The European Union decided yesterday to prolong its temporary ban on the imports of certain types of seeds from Egypt until the end of March 2012. The ban was to expire on 31 October 2011.

However, an audit carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) in August showed that the measures introduced by the Egyptian authorities to address shortcomings in the production of seeds that may potentially be sprouted for human consumption, are not sufficient to tackle the identified risks. Also, these measures do not provide sufficient guarantees on an active commitment to carry out production in line with the provisions of EU legislation (Regulation (EC) No 852/2004).

Following the FVO's findings, the European Commission prepared a proposal to prolong the ban. It tabled it yesterday at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), where the Member States endorsed it.

The imports of certain types of seeds from Egypt have been banned since early July (Decision 2011/402/EU) after a link was established between Egyptian fenugreek seeds and the E. coli outbreaks (O104 strain) in northern Germany and Bordeaux, France. In mid-September, and based on the FVO's findings, the Member States endorsed a Commission proposal to exempt from the temporary ban fresh or chilled leguminous vegetables, such as green beans and podded peas.

The European Commission now awaits a scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the risk posed by Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and other pathogenic bacteria in seeds and sprouts, shoots and cress derived from seeds. EFSA is expected to deliver the opinion by the end of this month. Any further action by the Commission would be decided on the basis of the latest available scientific information on the issue.

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