EU Food Law: Decision-making procedures

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Key decision-making procedure in EU food legislation that puts you in touch with the EU decision-making process and provides you with a sound basis for action.

Types of EU Legislation:

  • Directive: Compulsory objectives, but gives Member States flexibility as to how they translate it into national law, enabling account to be taken of national traditions and situations. A Directive may also allow for specific derogations, short or long-term, enabling a Member State to adopt national provisions taking account of existing domestic laws of practice.
  • Regulation: applies directly to Member States and is binding as soon as it is adopted and published in the OJ. Once issued it immediately becomes part of the law of each Member States.
  • Decision: is binding upon the parties, (Member States, companies or individuals), to whom it is addressed.

European Decision-Making bodies:

Decisions taken at the European level impact the daily lives of citizens and also regulate the companies that operate in Europe. The specialised nutrition industry is one of the most strictly regulated sectors in the European Union, with legislation covering safety, additives, labelling, and advertising, among other areas. Several EU institutions are relevant for nutrition industry:

  • European Commission: the executive body of the EU responsible for proposing laws and is also responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the EU. The European Commission is divided into different Directorate-Generals (DGs) that are responsible for specific policy issues. DG Health and Consumers is of particular interest for the specialised nutrition industry, as it is responsible for most of the legislation governing the sector. The EC must consult the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF). The SCF is consulted on all decisions related to additives, flavourings, materials in contact with food, nutrition and dietetic foods, contaminants, food hygiene, novel foods and novel food processes and natural mineral water.
  • European Parliament: The directly elected parliamentary body of the EU. Together with the Council and the European Commission it has legislative powers and co-decides on many issues of interest to the specialised nutrition industry. Members of European Parliament are elected by the EU citizens. The European Parliament works within Committees focusing on specific policy areas. The Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection is the most important committee on food and health issues. The preparatory work is done in the Committee. Once the Committee has elaborated an opinion, it is referred to one of the monthly plenary sessions in Strasbourg where it is discussed, amended and adopted as an official EP opinion.
  • Council of the European Union: represents the Member States that are part of the EU and is the third institution that decides over the laws of the EU. The Member States’ government representatives are sitting in the different meetings of the Council.
  • European Food Safety Authority: is the independent EU risk assessment body for food and feed safety. It provides independent scientific advice.
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