|The new Bulgarian Food Safety Agency – structure and functions|
On 25.01.2011 the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (“the Agency”) started officially its work. The Agency is set up by virtue of the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency Act as a single national body dedicated to control the entire food chain. Before the introduction of the Agency, responsibility for the control of food products was divided among a number of governmental authorities:
• the National Veterinary Medical Service;
• the National Grain and Fodder Service;
• the National Plant Protection Service;
• the Regional Health Inspectorates.
Merging of the above institutions into the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency aims at eliminating overlapping functions some of them had, and at creating a more streamlined, consistent and efficient approach to food safety in Bulgaria.
The Agency is under the aegis of the minister of agriculture and food and is structured into:
• a Central Office;
• 28 Regional Directorates;
• Special structures for scientific research and laboratory-diagnostic activities;
• Risk Assessment Center.
The key function of the Agency is to ensure that food products produced, distributed or marketed in Bulgaria comply with the applicable legislation. The Agency’s remit covers all food products with the exception of bottled natural mineral, spring and table waters. The control of the latter falls under the competence of the Regional Health Services with the Ministry of Health. Following amendments to the Bulgarian Food Act dated 25.01.2011., the Regional Health Inspectorates were renamed to Regional Health Services.
The establishment of the Agency triggered numerous changes in the Bulgarian food legislation. However, a number of statutory instruments, including Regulation No 47 dated 28.12.2004 on the requirements for food supplements have not been amended accordingly yet. Nevertheless, all these instruments should be construed in the light of the new Bulgarian Food Safety Agency Act.
As of 21.01.2011 the Agency assumed control over food supplements as well. All procedures related to food supplements, including notification for placing on the market, are already handled by the Regional Directorates of the Agency. The entire food supplements documentation should be transferred ex officio from the Regional Health Inspectorates to the new Regional Food Safety Directorates. However, due to the restructuring the notification procedures are currently delayed and it remains unclear whether the new Agency will keep to the practices and internal procedures applied so far by the Regional Health Inspectorates.