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26.1.

2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 26 E/45

identified by the scientific community as an important area for birds in the inventory prepared for the
Commission in 1998 by national experts and Birdlife. Moreover, the Spanish authorities have not
identified it as a site of Community importance for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network under Council
Directive 92/43/EEC (2) of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and
flora.

However, the Commission has information on the presence of a priority species listed in Annex II to
Directive 92/43/EEC in this area. It hosts one of the four natural populations of Valencia hispanica. The
Commission has therefore asked the Spanish authorities to include the site in the national list referred to in
Article 4 of Directive 92/43/EEC. The Spanish authorities have undertaken to officially notify the inclusion
of the ‘Marjal de Peñiscola’ site shortly.

With regard to Council Directive 85/337/EEC (3) of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of certain public and
private projects on the environment, it should be noted that Article 2 thereof provides that projects likely
to have significant effects on the environment by virtue of their nature, size or location must be made
subject to an assessment with regard to their effects before authorisation is granted.

The Commission was informed of the projects to which the Honourable Member refers when investigating
a complaint and a petition from Parliament’s Committee on Petitions relating to the same problem.
It should be pointed out that the projects in question are of classes which are either not listed in the
Annexes to Directive 85/337/EEC or listed in Annex II. Under the terms of Article 4(2) projects of the
classes listed in Annex II must be made subject to an assessment where Member States consider that their
characteristics so require.

The Spanish authorities have undertaken to take the necessary measures to ensure that the projects will
not affect the ‘Marjal de Peñiscola’ site.

At all events, the Commission will continue to investigate the matter and, in its role as guardian of the
Treaties, will take the necessary measures to ensure that Community law is complied with.

(1) OJ L 103, 25.4.1979.
(2) OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(3) OJ L 175, 5.7.1985.

(2001/C 26 E/058) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0454/00
by Karin Jöns (PSE) to the Commission

(24 February 2000)

Subject: Austrian warnings concerning salted saithe products and smoked salmon under the rapid warning
system for foodstuffs (pursuant to Directive 92/59/EEC)

Since February 1998 the Austrian Federal Chancellery has been repeatedly warning against the consump-
tion of salted saithe products and smoked salmon inter alia from Germany. The rapid warning system is
triggered because Austrian food testing establishments judge qualitatively positive findings of Listeria
monocytogenes in 25 g samples harmful to health (pursuant to § 8 (a) of the 1975 Law on Foodstuffs). In
other Member States, for example France and Germany, such findings do not comprise sufficient grounds
for withdrawing the products in question from circulation. The warnings are disseminated throughout the
EU under the rapid information exchange system and cause substantial financial losses to the manufac-
turers concerned, who may be faced with the alternative of either avoiding the Austrian market or seeing
their reputation permanently damaged throughout the EU single market, even though it is only on the
basis of Austrian criteria that there is a supposed risk.

1. In the opinion of the Commission (to be precise, the competent expert advisory committee on
foodstuffs of animal origin, the former veterinary committee), what are the risks to health from Listeria
monocytogenes?
C 26 E/46 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 26.1.2001

2. Does the Commission find it acceptable that there are differing criteria in EU Member States for
assessment of the risks to health from Listeria monocytogenes, leading to distortion of competition and
undermining the operation of the internal market?

3. What action can the Commission take to ensure that uniform assessment criteria are applied in this
connection?

Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

(25 April 2000)

1. 300-600 cases of listeriosis are reported yearly in the Community. The proportion of food-borne
outbreaks is unknown, but foods have been clearly identified as a primary source of infection. An
important feature of listeria infection is the potentially fatal consequence in particular in susceptible
categories of the population.

The Commission regards outbreaks of listeriosis as very serious and asked in 1999 for an opinion from the
scientific committee on veterinary measures relating to public health. The committee, which was requested
to assess the risk to health from the presence of Listeria monocytogenes at different levels in ready-to-eat
food, issued an opinion on 23 September 1999. This opinion is publicly available, for example on the
web-site of the Health and consumer protection Directorate-general.

A number of conclusions and recommendations are contained in the scientific opinion. According to the
epidemiological data available, it would seem that the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in food
represents a very low risk for all population groups when Listeria monocytogenes concentration is below
100 cfu/g. However, uncertainties remain as the above limit is not based upon formal dose-response
formulas and the consumption patterns for relevant foods are not directly available.

2. There are no microbiological standards for Listeria monocytogenes in the Community legislation on
food, except for milk-based products at despatch from establishments (Council Directive 92/46/EEC). In
those products, the standard is absence in either 1 g or 25 g, depending on the type of products. In the
absence of harmonised criteria, it is up to the Member States to notify others of the action they are taking
or they intend to take when confronted with what they consider as a threat on the basis of their national
legislation.

3. The Commission is considering the above scientific opinion with a view to taking initiatives to
enhance the safety of consumers. A proposal is scheduled to be adopted this year. It must however be
recalled that the primary responsibility for safe food production rests with the food producers.

Furthermore, the legislation in the veterinary and food sectors is facing profound changes during the next
few years as outlined in the white paper on food safety approved by the Commission on 12 January
2000 (1). An underlying feature is the increasing need for the use of science-based risk analysis. In the
context of the white paper, the Commission will propose a procedure to lay down microbiological
standards, and, where appropriate and after risk assessment, related maximum limits of undesirable micro-
organisms in foodstuffs.

(1) COM(1999) 719.

(2001/C 26 E/059) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0460/00
by Klaus Hänsch (PSE) to the Commission

(24 February 2000)

Subject: Animal welfare issues raised by the production of pâté de foie gras

Since the end of 1999 Member States have been required to implement in full Council Directive 98/58/
EC (1) concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, which provides that such animals
must not be caused any unnecessary suffering or injury on account of the way in which they are fed or