LOCAL FOOD MATTERS: finding the good balance between hygiene rules, small-scale production and quality »
Proposal of feasible options for local and small-scale food producers
Date of writing: March 22, 2014
Author(s) of the proposal: Forum Synergies, Slow Food Balkan, autres organisations
There is a growing interest of farmers and consumers in local food. However, EU legislation on hygiene rules, which is also implemented in accession countries, has already led to the closing of small diaries and slaughter houses in many regions. Ever growing investment costs demanded as a pre-requisite to meet hygienic standards for on farm food processing are pushing more and more famers of local food out of production. This process is accelerating and severely counteracts the growing claim for local high quality food.
The implementation of existing EU legislation on hygiene rules has created so far very heterogenic implementation on the ground. It is designed primarily for industrial food processing. But in fact it leaves a considerable margin of manoeuvre for the national, regional and local food authorities. So local food production can be dealt with in a proportionate way ! However in most Member States and Accession countries of the EU this flexibility is rarely applied thus forcing many producers of traditional quality food out of business.
This declaration is the result of the international workshop organised on March 20-22th, 2014 by Forum Synergies and Slow Food Bitola, in cooperation with PREPARE, Terra Madre Balkan, SWG and ESSEDRA. It focused on feasible options for local and small-scale food producers. More than 60 participants from 15 different countries - mainly Balkan – and from producer, administration and civil society side participated in it.
LOCAL FOOD MATTERS !
In many regions, the European regulatory framework on food hygiene and food safety is a stumble stone for small food producers, which play an important role for sustainable development and nature conservation in rural areas.
The European Commission acknowledges that the flexibility foreseen in the European legislation on food hygiene is not often applied by the member states and accession countries. The national and regional authorities responsible for official controls on the ground seem to be reluctant to assume the (sole) responsibility for applying more flexible solutions.
The EU legislation on food hygiene and safety will be under review in the near future. The participants of the workshop invite the European Commission to include clear and obligatory provisions for flexibility in its legislative proposals, which guarantee simplified and proportionate rules for small producers and local food chains. These simplified rules shall take into account traditional food production and local heritage, the scale of the production and the marketing distance of the products concerned (and be risked based). For direct marketing, special provisions should be foreseen. However, minimum standards should be met by all producers (they need to follow practicable Good Hygiene Practice Guidelines).
The participants of the workshop invite the European Commission to actively promote and support an exchange of best practices between the competent authorities of member states and accession countries (through cooperation programmes, training etc). In addition, a food safety help desk / mediation body should be made available at EU and at national level, providing support and advice to national, regional or local administrations, targeting practicable solutions, especially for local food chains. These intermediate bodies shall facilitate the communication between competent authorities and producers and should be open for interested civil society organisations.
Local food producers often face strict requirements, linked to disproportionate investments in processing facilities. The participants of the workshop invite the competent authorities at national, regional or local level to make use of the margin of flexibility already provided in the current legislation. Especially in accession countries like those of the Western Balkan, the national legislation for food safety and hygiene should not be stricter than the EU rules, so that local quality food production remains viable also at a small scale without disproportionate financial input. In order to promote best practice, the authorities should also offer cooperation and trainings targeting producers, farmers, processors and local authorities. Trainings for small food producers could provide for certificates of good practice. Cooperation between actors of local food chains shall be supported through rural development programmes and involve civil society organisations providing advocacy for local food.
Where competent authorities are not willing to take the responsibility for adapted hygiene rules, they can use a disclaimer: Local food product. Safety guaranteed by producer, not by the State.
Civil society organisations should advocate in view of the public desire for traditional food and its survival.
Local food producers should organise themselves and establish common sectoral guides to good practice. They should cooperate with civil society in order to build trust with consumers, also through school eduction activities, and share the knowledge and the stories behind their food products.
WE WANT LOCAL FOOD: TASTE THE DIFFERENCE!
Trnovo, Bitola, Macedonia
22 March 2013