Cablegate: Implementation of Eu Traceability and Labeling

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 93453

1. In response to reftel request for information on
implementation and enforcement of the new EU Traceability and
Labeling (T&L) for food and feed regulations, we talked to
the Spanish Food Safety Agency, the Spanish Food and Beverage
Federation and the Spanish Feed Compounders Association
regarding Spain's experience.

Government View: The Spanish Food Safety Agency

2. We spoke with Jose Ignacio Arranz Recio, number two in the
Spanish Food Safety Agency (AESA), an autonomous agency
attached to the Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs.
Arranz explained the GOS plan for implementing the new T&L
regulations. The players involved are the AESA, which
provides overall direction, the autonomous communities
(regional governments), which are responsible for oversight
and testing in their territories (e.g., screening products on
supermarket shelves), the Ministry of Health's External
Health Service, which screens products at the port of entry
into Spain, the Ministry of Health's National Consumer
Affairs Institute, which oversees labeling compliance, and
the Ministry of Agriculture's Directorate General for
Livestock, which oversees implementation of the regulations
on feed.

3. AESA has drawn up a list of food products subject to
screening, which include various soy, flour and corn-based
products. The products screened and number of samples taken
will vary from region to region. Samples will be tested by
public and private laboratories deemed capable of using the
AESA-recommended methods for detecting proteins and DNA
(methods include ELISA, PCR, and RT-PCR). AESA is a member
of the European Network of Genetically Modified Organisms'
Laboratories (ENGL), and AESA in turn is creating a national
network of approved labs. If a region does not have an
approved lab, samples can be sent to the AESA or to one of
the approved labs in another region. AESA will review the
efficacy of the system every three months through December
2004 and make recommendations to improve system deficiencies.

4. Regarding sanctions, Arranz explained that when the
problem is false or misleading information provided in
labeling, the GOS will refer to the labeling regulations. If
the problem detected is introduction of a variety not
authorized by the EU, the GOS will apply sanctions spelled
out in existing national public health regulations. Arranz
said that the GOS is not coordinating enforcement issues with
other EU member states.

5. The AESA developed with the Spanish Food and Beverage
Federation and the Ministry of Agriculture a guide for
businesses, regional governments and consumers spelling out
the T&L regulations and listing the varieties currently
authorized by the EU as well as those pending authorization.
Arranz confirmed that the AESA is the point of contact for
private sector inquiries regarding implementation or
enforcement of T&L regulations in Spain (website is

6. When asked about transposition of new T&L regulations into
national law, Arranz said that EU regulations are applied
directly in EU member states.

Food Industry View: The Spanish Food and Beverage Federation

7. Spanish Food and Beverage Federation (FIAB) Food Law
Director Pilar Velazquez reported that most of FIAB's members
have reformulated products to avoid labeling. In fact, she
is aware of no companies that are labeling, either for the
domestic or third country markets. Velazquez confirmed that
FIAB worked closely with the AESA and the Ministry of
Agriculture to develop its informational handbook on T&L
regulations and said that FIAB's members are generally
concerned about complying with the norms. She expects that
once the testing carried out by the Spanish national and
regional governments, as well as that done by "activist"
groups, starts to reveal results, producers will discover
that, although they did not know it, some of their product
inputs have GMO content.

8. Velazquez characterized the Spanish government as
"unenthusiastic" about the T&L regulations, but expected that
the GOS will implement and enforce them "properly" to avoid
criticism from consumer and environmental groups. Velazquez
confirmed our understanding that Spanish consumers are not
overly concerned about biotech issues, and thought that after
a year or two of T&L implementation, industry may feel more
comfortable with sourcing cheaper GMO inputs and labeling
their final products.

Feed Industry View: The Spanish Feed Compounders Association

9. Jorge Saja, the head of the Spanish Feed Compounders
Association, told us his organization produced pamphlets for
its members containing guidance on how to comply with the new
T&L regulations. He reported that the Association's members
have not reformulated their products, and are successfully
labeling where there is GMO content. Saja explained that in
the case of products produced during the 2003 market year,
feed compounders are labeling where there is any uncertainty
at all over the potential biotech content of inputs. For
market year 2004, feed factories are getting detailed
information on all inputs, and will label where there is
verified GMO content.

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