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Monday, 9 March 2009 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Ensuring food quality: harmonisation or mutual recognition of standards (short presentation)

  Maria Petre, rapporteur.(RO) I would first of all like to thank the European Commission for this welcome initiative of the Green Paper on agricultural product quality and for the consultation launched on this topic.

The Green Paper provides a response to a real need on the part of Member States to promote the image of their agricultural products, especially the benefits in terms of quality, both among European consumers and consumers in other countries. These high standards are demanded by consumers and are a means of achieving maximum added value. Although the codecision procedure does not apply, I hope that the European Parliament’s opinion will definitely be taken into consideration during the phases to come.

I would also like to thank my colleagues from the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and, especially, the experts for the support they have given in promoting this report.

Simplification of marketing standards, keeping consumers better informed, particularly about the origin of food products, and better protection for European quality products at a global level are some of the most important proposals in the report.

Quality policy cannot be treated separately from the issue of the future of the CAP or from such challenges as climate change, the need to preserve biodiversity, energy supplies and water resource management. At the same time, consumers, as we all know, are showing an ever-increasing interest not only in food safety but also in the origin and production methods of food products.

Certification schemes are associated in the minds of consumers with a guarantee of higher quality. The purpose of standards must be to assist farmers in delivering quality products that meet consumers’ expectations, avoid consumer disappointment and facilitate price comparison over a range of product quality.

As rapporteur, I would like to see a reduction in the level of complexity of the European system of basic standards and the numerous provisions which European farmers must comply with. I am in favour of simplifying and adopting rules that will sufficiently guarantee food safety in the EU.

I am also proposing means of simplifying the process for establishing standards by shortening procedures in the Commission, transferring this burden to other bodies or by referring to international standards. I also believe that any simplification must take account of the administrative tasks which come under the remit of the public authorities or stakeholders. As market trends change and technology advances, marketing standards may become partially obsolete and have to be adapted and updated.

The European Union must insist that all food products comply with its production standards, especially as regards health and safety. In addition to this, the European Union must ensure a level playing field between locally produced and third-country products. I am in favour of the mandatory introduction of labelling the place of production of primary products as ‘produced in the European Union’ or outside it.

I would also like this system to be extended to processed food products to take into account the origin of the main ingredients and raw materials and to establish a link between these items and the place where the product was last processed. I believe that rules must be adopted concerning the use of the terms ‘mountain’ and ‘island’, given the significant resulting added value for agricultural and food products from these less favoured areas.

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