Food Law News - EU - 2012

Council Minutes, 24 and 25 September 2012

RESIDUES – Council consideration of Codex decision on Ractopamine

The following is an extract form the Minutes of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting held on 24 and 25 September 2012:

The Presidency briefed the ministers on the adoption by the Codex Alimentarius Commission during its session on 2-7 July 2012 of a maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine in beef and pork meat (13764/12).

Together with the Presidency and the Commission, many member states regretted the potential consequences of the adoption of a MRL for ractopamine by the international organisation. Delegations defended in particular the current EU legislation banning growth promoters and raised concerns about the decision procedure in the Codex alimentarius.

Ractopamine is a growth promoter belonging to the family of beta-agonists: it has an anabolic effect which significantly increases muscle mass while decreasing the fat content of carcasses. Since 1996, the use of growth promoters and the import of meat from animals treated with these substances are strictly prohibited in the EU. The EU policy towards this substance has been established on the grounds of persisting scientific uncertainty about the safety of products derived from animals treated with ractopamine and opposition to the use of veterinary drugs as growth promoters.

However, as fixing a MRL is considered as setting a threshold under which the use the product is considered as safe, the new standard fixed by the Codex can be considered de facto as an authorisation of using ractopamine below the fixed MRL in food producing animals. This could lead some third countries to question the EU policy, since Codex standards are usually considered as benchmarks in the framework of the SPS agreement of the WTO.

In order to defend the interest of EU consumers, the Council, in close cooperation with the Commission, has started identifying in the Codex Alimentarius Working Party the next steps that the EU will have to take. The Presidency informed ministers that they would have the opportunity to discuss this issue at a forthcoming Council meeting.

For news item on this site concerning the Codex decision, see: 6 July 2012 RESDIDUES - Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts maximum residue levels - UN food safety body sets limits on veterinary growth promoting drug

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