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Last minute efforts count in food safety

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14/06/2018

On Monday, June 11th, the Council of State  suspended the execution of the decision of federal minister Ducarme, through which the food safety approval of abattoir Sopraco (Geel) was withdrawn. It concerns a preliminary ruling under the emergency procedure (judgment nr. 241.751). A final judgment on the merits of the case will follow later.

In accordance with the Royal Decree on food safety approval, authorisations and registrations (16 January 2006), the food safety agency (FAVV/AFSCA) had communicated the reasons for a potential approval withdrawal to the operator (Sopraco). The latter then launched an appeal with the appeal commission, whose decision has an advisory nature. The final decision lies with the federal minister responsible for food safety.

According to the Council of State judgment, the appeal commission had in this case determined that, while the latest food safety inspection report still found a number of non-conformities, “for most of the infringements, serious work has been done towards a structural solution that offers opportunities for sustainability”. The appeal commission proposed to suspend the approval withdrawal, allowing Sopraco to continue its activities under strict conditions.

The minister, however, decided not to follow this advice. The Council of State states: “At first sight, the contested decision appears to take into account elements from the past without explaining why the recent efforts and the current situation (where the food safety is not at risk) should not be included in the assessment and why the advice of the appeals commission cannot be followed.” “It is not clear from the contested decision why the recent commitment and measures are not sufficient and why the approval withdrawal is still necessary at this moment.”

The Council of State therefore decided that the federal minister’s decision did not, at first sight, contain adequate justification. Its implementation is consequently suspended during the further course of the proceedings on the merits of the case.

For further information on food safety law and procedure, do not hesitate to contact Dominique Devos (d.devos@liedekerke.com) or Jonas Van Orshoven (j.vanorshoven@liedekerke.com)