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Derogation from the Hygiene 2 regulation for online sales of small cheese producers

Italian MEP Marco Dreosto tries to shed light on the extension of the derogation from the Hygiene 2 regulation (EC reg. 853/04) to sales online of small local cheese producers. (1)

The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides, in her reply, distinguishes between consumer and wholesale sales hypotheses. (2) An in-depth study.

Hygiene Regulation 2

The reg. CE 853/04 - known as Hygiene 2, since it is the second in the succession of the so-called Hygiene Package (3) - establishes specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin. (4) In essence:

- obligation to authorize the facilities by the Veterinary Public Services (instead of just registration, on the other hand required for the generality of products of plant origin and those composed of processed products of animal origin),

- additional hygienic requirements, which involve significant investments in the design and installation of systems and equipment (so-called clean room). In addition to the procedures, training and dedicated resources,

- identification mark, periodic visits by public veterinarians.

Hygiene Regulation 2, the derogation

The Hygiene Regulation 2, in general terms, it does not apply to the activities ofRetail'(EC reg. 853/04, article 1.5.a). The European Commission - in its questions and answers on the application of some rules of the Hygiene Package (5) - has also added the possibility of derogation from the application of reg. CE 853/2004 for small producers of milk and dairy products that carry out direct sales and on the local market. By equating these activities to those of commerce.

'Cheese production at the farm must in principle comply with the appropriate general and specific EU requirements on food hygiene and an approval is needed.
However, when cheese is manufactured and sold entirely at the farm or at a local market (eg weekly market, farmers market etc.) directly to final consumers, this activity is covered by the notion of retail.

Only general hygiene requirements are therefore applicable and in this case no approval is needed. In addition to that, Member States may use the flexibility provisions and adopt national measures in order to adapt the requirements on the construction, layout and equipment for these establishments. The existence of such national measures should be checked with the competent authority. ' (5)

Sales online of small cheese producers, parliamentary question

Hon. Marco Dreosto (League, Identity and Democracy Group) tried to ask the European Commission for an update on the above, with a parliamentary question 15.4.22. (1) The MEP - originally from Spilimbergo, province of Pordenone - highlighted how, in a dozen years from the Brussels Q&A on the Hygiene Package, digitization has also involved small mountain huts (or farms, in the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano).

social networks they have also taken on a role for the breeders of a few cows, who thanks to them allow metropolitan citizens to escape the heat to immerse themselves in nature, with the benefit of a platter of cheeses sometimes produced in the same malga. It is therefore necessary to clarify whether - in the hypothesis in which the 'direct sales'is mediated by a device computer and a shipment - the exception to the strict rules set out in Hygiene 2 is still applicable.

European Commission, the answer

The European Commission, in his answer 15.6.22 to the said parliamentary question, recalled the definition of 'Retail'required by reg. CE 178/02. Which includes, in the opinion of DG Sante, 'any sale or delivery to the final consumer, including online sales and wholesalers'. (2)

Wholesale of food of animal origin is moreover subject to the Hygiene Regulation 2 (EC reg. 853/04, article 1.5.b), 'except, among other things, when this activity is marginal, localized and restricted'(Article 1.5.b.ii). And so:

- 'if small dairies only sell directly to final consumers, they are not required'to apply Hygiene 2 (EC regulation 853/04, article 1.5.a). Without prejudice to the power of Member States to adopt national measures for the application of its requirements also to such direct sales,

- in reverse, 'if these dairies are wholesalers, they must comply with the requirements of Regulation (EC) no. 853/2004, even if they carry out a small activity of direct supply to consumers in premises annexed to the commercial operation'. (2)

Provisional conclusions

The interpretation offered by the Commission does not appear to be consistent with the provisions of the Hygiene 2 regulation, where the activity 'marginal, localized and restricted'is expressly excluded from its field of application (EC regulation 853/04, article 1.5.b) even in the case of wholesale sales, that is to say to economic operators rather than to final consumers. The circumstance that the localization is'delocalized', in case of sales online, moreover, it does not seem to exclude the marginality and narrowness of sales. (6)

Authorization on the other hand, it must not be understood as a harassment, even by small farmers. The veterinary control that precedes the authorization can indeed be understood as an opportunity, the best advice that a small producer can receive to apply in practice the 'culture of food safety' that the European legislator has recently evoked in the reg. EU 382/2021. (7)

The social role of the official veterinary service

A great example of the prevention support of the veterinary food hygiene service is that organized by the homonymous service of the AUSSL n. 7 Foothills, under the direction of Dr. Fabrizio De Stefani. The writer has had the opportunity to personally observe the great effectiveness of this service which well expresses the function of the official control introduced in the Hygiene Package, thanks to the reg. CE 882/04 (later repealed by reg. 2017/625). (8)

Not a gendarme but a careful observer of the reality of premises and equipment, as well as of the anthropological factor that allows us to verify the ability of the candidate producer of caci to understand the meaning of the rules and effectively apply the prescriptions received. In view of an authorization which in any case postulates a further visit for the test of the 9. Indeed, of the 853. Igniting brains can save the world.

Dario Dongo

Footnotes to the story

(1) European Parliament. Question 15.4.22 to the European Commission, with request for a written answer, signed by the Hon. Marco Dreosto. Online food sales. (E-001518/2022). https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2022-001518_EN.html

(2) European Commission. Answer 15.6.22 to parliamentary question E-001518/2022. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2022-001518-ASW_EN.html

(3) Hygiene package, reg. CE 852/04 and later. For further information seeebook 'Food safety, mandatory rules and voluntary standards'

(4) EC Reg. 853/04, laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin. Text updated at 21.10.21 on Eur-Lex, https://bit.ly/3I5SPAX

(5) See Q&A 8 on Commission staff working document on the Understanding of certain provisions on flexibility provided in the Hygiene Package. Frequently Asked Questions Guidelines for food business operators. SEC (2010) 985 final. https://bit.ly/3I6ZDi0

(6) Dario Dongo. Nutritional declaration, the exemption for micro-enterprises must also apply to e-commerce. Here because. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). 2.12.16/XNUMX/XNUMX,

(7) Dario Dongo. https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/sicurezza/reg-ue-2081-382-cultura-della-sicurezza-redistribuzione-alimenti-gestione-allergeni/, GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade) One

(8) Dario Dongo. Official public controls, EU regulation 2017/625 is underway. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade) One

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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