Animal and plant health package: smarter rules for safer food

What is the animal and plant health package?

The animal and plant health package aims to modernise and simplify existing rules while strengthening the enforcement of health and safety standards across the whole agri-food chain. The proposals would also introduce a more risk-based approach to the protection of health and more efficient control tools. The end result should be simpler rules, more efficient processes and better control against animal diseases and plant pests, as well as safer products for consumers. The package consists of five legislative proposals from the Commission. 

Why do we need it?

The agri-food industry is worth around €750 billion a year and employs over 48 million people, making it the second largest economic sector in the EU.

Ensuring a high level of health for humans, animals, and plants is one of the objectives in the EU treaties. Current rules in this area have so far proven to be effective in preventing and countering risks. However, experience has shown there is a need to simplify and update these rules and to further integrate the approach across the different areas in the agri-food chain. The safety of the EU's agri-food industry is essential not only to ensure consumer safety, but also to ensure the sustainability of food produced in the EU.

Europe's agriculture, forests and biodiversity are also under threat from pests and diseases that attack plants. The number of new pest species in Europe has increased, largely as a result of trade globalisation and climate change. Reforming plant health rules will help with the early eradication of new pest species and help stop them entering the EU.

Current rules relating to plant and animal health are complex. Modernised and simplified rules would allow a more risk-based approach to animal and plant health, which in turn would help the eradication of animal diseases and plant pests, and indirectly improve food safety.  

In detail

The five proposals under the animal and plant health package are:

  1. Animal health 
    The proposed legislation will replace the current body almost 50 separate pieces of legislation with a single regulation. It will improve the standards  and implement a common system to better detect and prevent disease, and to tackle health, food and feed safety risks in a more coordinated way. 
  2. Plant health 
    The new regulation  will put in place a better framework to protect the health of Europe's plants. The main changes  which have been introduced improve the protection from risks related to imports from non-EU countries, introduce a plant passport system, improve the surveillance of pest outbreaks and the control of protected zones. 
  3. Plant reproductive material
    The proposal - also known as the 'seed regulation' - was aiming among others to introduce simplified and more flexible rules for the marketing of seeds and other plant reproductive material. The proposal was withdrawn by the Commission as part of its work programme for 2015, following the rejection by the European Parliament. 
  4. Official controls 
    The changes would create a single framework for all official controls along the agri-food chain. In particular, the new rules would implement a risk-based approach, allowing the focus of resources on the most relevant issues.
  5. Common financial framework
    This new regulation was adopted by the Council on 8 May 2014, following the European Parliament's first reading which confirmed the first reading agreement reached agreement between the two colegislators in December 2013. It will put into place a single financial framework to manage expenditure and improve the functioning of various programmes implemented within the agri-food area. 

What is the state of play?

The negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposed Regulation on animal health were finalised in June 2015 and the Regulation was adopted on 9 March and published on 31 March 2016. It will apply from 21 April 2021.

The negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposed regulation on plant health were finalised in December 2015. The Council finalised its first reading on 18 July 2016, fully reflecting the agreement reached between the two co-legislators, and the European Parliament's plenary adopted that same text, at second reading on 26 October 2016. The regulation was published in the Official Journal of the EU in November 2016.

The negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council on the proposed regulation on official controls were finalised in June 2016. The Council has adopted its position at first reading on the basis of this agreement on 19 December 2016. The position in Council at first reading together with the statement of Council's reasons were transmitted to the European Parliament in January 2017.

The new regulation on expenditure was adopted by the Council on 8 May 2014, following the European Parliament's first reading  which confirmed the first reading agreement reached agreement between the two colegislators in December 2013. The proposal on plant reproductive material was withdrawn by the Commission as part of its work programme for 2015, after the rejection of the proposal by the European Parliament.