Food Law News - EU - 2012

Council Press Release, 28 and 29 November 2012

ADDITIVES - Lactic acid: Proposed use for the reduction in microbiological surface contamination on bovine carcasses

The following is an extract from the Minutes of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting held in Brussels on 28 and 29 November 2012:

No agreement was reached either in favour of or against the proposal for a regulation concerning the use of lactic acid to reduce microbiological surface contamination on bovine carcasses presented to the Council for adoption (14571/12).

The Commission proposal follows an application from the US Department of Agriculture to be able to use lactic acid to reduce surface contamination of bovine carcasses and meat. Since lactic acid is widely used by U.S. beef industry, the "lactic acid regulation" is informally linked to the 2009 bilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the US and the EU on beef trade. On 1st July 2012, and in accordance with the second phase of the MOU, the EU opened an increased import quota (TRQ) for beef not treated with hormones. Authorisation of the use of lactic acid would allow the USA to fill this export quota.

On 26 July 2011 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) adopted a scientific opinion on the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of lactic acid for the removal of microbial surface contamination from beef carcasses, cuts and trimmings. The EFSA concluded that this treatment would not be a safety concern provided that the substance used complies with the EU specifications for food additives.

At its meeting on 21 September 2012, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health was unable to achieve the qualified majority necessary to deliver an opinion for or against the authorisation measure proposed by the Commission. In the absence of an opinion, the Council had two months in which to give its position following which the Parliament would also have an additional two months to give its position.

The Council noted that there was not a qualified majority either in favour of or against the proposal. In this case, the Commission is now entitled to finalise the procedure ("comitology") and to authorise the use of lactic acid to reduce microbiological surface contamination on bovine carcasses.

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