The UK's National Control Plan (NCP) law is being prepared by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to meet a requirement of EU Regulation 882/2004 on official controls.
The EU regulations are a bid by the bloc to improve the consistency and effectiveness of monitoring and enforcing of feed and food law and animal health and animal welfare rules within member states and across the EU.
A unified law would make it easier for food processors to operate across the EU's borders. It would also reduce the problems they face in dealing with multiple laws and regulatory systems in the various member states.
However it would also mean increased fees for processors as part of the law includes implementing plans to recover part of the cost of inspecting foods and manufacturing plants during major safety incidents.
The EU regulation sets out the general approach that must be taken, and the principles that must be adopted, by regulators in EU member states that have responsibility for monitoring and verifying compliance.
It also provides the legal basis for the European Commission to assess the effectiveness of national official control arrangements. Most of the provisions applied from 1 January 2006. Others will apply from 1 January 2007.
Each member state must have an NCP in place by 1 January 2007 and, thereafter, must keep this under review and report to the Commission on its implementation on an annual basis.
The draft UK NCP aims to describe, in general terms, the official control arrangements in the UK and the approach taken by the regulatory authorities. It also aims to give an overview of the mechanisms in place to ensure that the various authorities responsible for the sectors co-ordinate their activities and work together to provide a comprehensive control system operating from 'farm to fork'.
The NCP will provide the basis for the application of Article 28 of Regulation 882/2004. The article requires that charges are made by the competent authorities to cover the costs of official controls that they carry out following the detection of infringements or non-compliance with legal requirements.
Costs would be assessed in cases when regulators are forced to do work that exceeds "normal control activities", as defined under the regulator.
"The intention is that the provision will be used in exceptional circumstances such as major and significant feed or food incidents," the FSA stated. "The description of 'normal control activities' in the UK NCP is key so we would be grateful for your views on whether these are described adequately."
The deadline for consultation is 20 October 2006.