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Minister Pivec and EU commissioner Andriukaitis on challenges regarding food safety

Ljubljana, 29 November 2018 – The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Aleksandra Pivec, met the EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis. They exchanged views on challenges regarding safety and quality of food. Their discussion focused on the issues of the swine fever threat, the new regulation on the transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain, the resistance of microbes to antimicrobial drugs, and animal welfare in transport.

Confirmation of the African swine fever virus presence in Belgium poses a specific risk to Europe, particularly because of potential virus transmission by people, means of transport and meat product residues. Minister Pivec informed Commissioner Andriukaitis about the preventive measures that have been actively implemented in Slovenia. Particular reference was made to monitoring the possible presence of African swine fever in feral and domestic pigs, raising awareness of the disease and preventive measures among the public, the updated contingency plan for its potential occurrence, and close cooperation with hunters in monitoring the disease in the wild. Commissioner Andriukaitis invited Minister Pivec to attend a ministerial conference in December this year, where discussion will focus on eradication of African swine fever from the EU and the long–term management of the feral pig population.

Minister Pivec and Commissioner Andriukaitis exchanged views on the discussions over the proposal for a regulation on the transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain. The regulation provides for the publication of all scientific studies that serve as the basis for decisions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in the authorisation procedure for plant protection products and genetically modified organisms. Minister Pivec stressed that Slovenia supported the initiative, which would improve the transparency of risk assessment and strengthen consumer confidence. She also pointed out that the envisaged changes should not threaten the interests of the industry as that might discourage it from undertaking scientific research in the EU. The funding of the EFSA reorganisation, the appointment of its Scientific Committee members and the prevention of conflicts of interest should be arranged appropriately. To this end, Slovenia supports the amendments drawn up by the Austrian Presidency.

As regards antimicrobial resistance, Minister Pivec informed Commissioner Andriukaitis that the use of antimicrobial drugs in veterinary medicine in Slovenia had decreased and pointed out that since 2008 the institutions concerned had been regularly informed about the prudent use of antibiotics in animals. In addition, a comprehensive national strategy against antimicrobial resistance, entitled "One Health", has been drawn up and is expected to be adopted by the Government in the first half of 2019.

Antimicrobial drug resistance is certainly a natural phenomenon, but it has been increasing because of the use of antimicrobials in human and veterinary medicine. The scale of microbe resistance to antimicrobials has grown to the extent that a global coordinated approach is now needed. The antimicrobials used for treatment in humans and animals have become less effective. There are a number of reasons for microbial resistance to antimicrobial drugs, particularly to antibiotics, and the biggest impact by far is caused by their excessive and inappropriate use in humans and animals.  Therefore, prescribing and using antibiotics to treat bacterial diseases must be justified, prudent and responsible.

Minister Pivec and Commissioner Andriukaitis also exchanged views on the welfare of animals in transport. Being mostly a transit country, the issue of animal welfare in transport is of particular importance to Slovenia. Inspections carried out in Slovenia often establish non–compliance with animal welfare requirements under the European Regulation on the protection of animals during transport, because of its different interpretation by the Member States. For that reason Slovenia supports the initiative of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark to revise the aforementioned Regulation.