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European victory saves British grocers 280m


The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has saved UK grocers more than 280m after lobbying successfully for a change to new European food traceability regulations.

If it had remained unchanged, proposal 1490/2007, which will be formally adopted later this year, would have forced British grocers to carry out a completely unnecessary and costly alteration to the way they gather and store traceability data for products containing animal foodstuffs (meat, eggs, cheese etc).

Currently grocers with multiple outlets keep all traceability data at a central point. Any inquiry about the provenance of a product on the shelf of an individual store is forwarded to that central point and can be responded to in a matter of hours. Before it was altered, the new European regulation required that traceability information be captured and made available on demand at each grocery store, something which would have forced a complete overhaul of IT systems, costing grocers at least 280m. The BRCs intervention means that grocers can go on using their existing traceability systems.

British Retail Consortium Food Director Andrew Opie said: This is a massive victory for British grocers. In its previous form the proposed regulation offered no practical benefits, just unnecessary costs and were delighted that our intervention has prompted these sensible changes. They will save our members at least 280m.

British grocers have the most robust and sophisticated traceability systems in the world. They can respond to any product recall immediately and are capable of providing full information on the provenance of any item on the supermarket shelf within a matter of hours. The unaltered regulation would not have improved traceability or public safety. Its only result would have been to add huge additional cost. Altering the proposed regulation to allow retailers to keep their excellent existing traceability systems is the right decision.

We are grateful that the Food Standards Agency supported our lobbying on this issue and are pleased that the Commission was open to representations from industry.

The BRC endorsed last-minute alterations to proposal 1490/2007 which were incorporated at the Commissions Hygiene working group meeting with member states on Thursday 11 November 2010. The regulation was put to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on Wednesday 17 November 2010 and will be formally voted on at the SCoFCAH meeting on Tuesday 21 December 2010.

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