JAPAN - Exporting meat and cheese to Japan from the EU is going to become easier following a change in the Japanese standards on Listeria monocytogenes.
The Japanese requirement now reflects the current international standard applied also in the EU.
The decision will open the door to €1 billion-worth European exports of processed meat and cheese to Japan.
Codex Alimentarius – the international standard-setting body - defined the microbiological criteria for Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods in 2009.
The Codex Alimentarius gave a possibility for authorities in individual countries to establish and implement limits other than zero-tolerance provided certain associated conditions guarantee the safety of the food products, the so-called "alternative approach".
The EU legislation allows the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, which is a pathogenic bacterium widespread in the environment, in ready-to-eat food as long as the producer can demonstrate that the EU-set limit will not be exceeded throughout the product's shelf-life.
This is in line with the international standard.
Listeria is controlled through preventive measures and careful monitoring during food production.
The authorities in Member States are responsible to ensure that the food companies implement the legislation correctly.
Japan did not previously recognise the EU approach and banned all foods containing Listeria monocytogenes.
The zero tolerance policy for all products exposed EU traders to uncertainties and delays.
Some consignments of safe products from Europe could not enter the Japanese market.
The EU had asked Japanese authorities to reconsider the standard.
The decision taken by Japan in December follows detailed discussions between the EU and the Japanese authorities, a study visit to the EU and a thorough risk assessment in Japan.
The European Commission welcomes the decision taken by Japan. It significantly improves access to the Japanese market for European exporters of processed meat products and soft- and semi-hard cheeses and confirms the high level of safety of EU food. The European Commission is now following closely the implementation of the new Japanese standard to ensure it does not cause any other hindrance to trade.
The European Commission and the EU Delegation in Tokyo is to continue working together with the Japanese authorities to eliminate any outstanding barriers in EU-Japan food trade.
In the process the European Commission will engage also closely with all EU Member States and industry.
TheMeatSite News Desk