The European Commission has warned Romania and Czech Republic about failing to follow food safety rules.

Romania is in trouble for not telling the Commission about draft food hygiene legislation and its exclusion criteria for products of animal origin.

Czech Republic has failed to comply with EU rules on official controls to ensure verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and welfare.

Both countries have three months from July to put in place measures to comply before the Commission potentially takes further action.

Romanian action
The EU Commission can take legal action against a member state that is not respecting its obligations under EU law. The infringement procedure begins with a request for information, also called a Letter of Formal Notice, to the country concerned.

If the Commission is not satisfied with the information, it may then send a formal request to comply with EU law, also known as a Reasoned Opinion, calling on the member state to inform the Commission of measures taken to comply.

If a country fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may decide to refer them to the European Court of Justice but most infringement cases do not go that far.

The letter of formal notice to Romania covers exclusion of certain supplies of products of animal origin from the scope of EU Regulation number 853/2004 on hygiene rules of food of animal origin, which are governed by national law, without complying with conditions for exclusion from the EU regulation.

It also concerns the failure by Romania to comply with certain parts of the General Food Law Regulation 178/2002 and EU Regulation number 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs.

Romanian food hygiene rules apply to goods subject to free movement in the internal market. These national laws should have been reported at the draft stage to allow the Commission to assess compatibility with EU law, but Romania failed to do this.

Czech Republic warning
The supplementary letter of formal notice to Czech Republic is because authorities decided to carry out a systematic risk assessment and potential official controls targeting certain foodstuffs coming from another member state each time such product enters the country.

Czech authorities have put in national legislation the need for operators to systematically notify, at least 24 hours in advance, the arrival of such foodstuffs to the place of destination.

This is against the framework established in EU rules that states the obligation to report the arrival of goods from another member state must not be systematic. Reporting of the arrival of such goods may be requested by authorities only on a risk basis and for what is strictly necessary to organize official controls.

A letter of formal notice and a reasoned opinion were sent by the Commission to Czech Republic in January and July 2019, respectively, for breaching part of Regulation number 882/2004.

This law was repealed and replaced by Regulation (EU) 2017/625 in December 2019 but the part breached was maintained in the new legislation. So with Czech Republic continuously breaking those provisions, a supplementary letter of formal notice was sent by the Commission.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic the time periods for replies to ongoing infringement procedures since the beginning of the year have been extended. Member states have the possibility to reply to each letter of formal notice and reasoned opinion in July’s infringement package within three months instead of the usual two months.

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