Public discussion of a draft Ordinance on the Central Registry for Food Traceability

On 24.03.2023, the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture published for public discussion a draft of the Ordinance on the Central Registry for Food Traceability, which provides for additional administrative duties for all administrative bodies and traders on the food market. The Ordinance stipulates that traders – including importers, wholesalers and retailers – submit information to the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (BFSA) for each batch of food products, including the date of receipt; physical condition; lot numbers; expiry date; scrapped food, waste and losses of another nature. The draft regulation poses several groups of questions.
First of all, the ordinance would impose significant administrative duties on food retailers, as the information required is large in volume. In addition, a large part of the information will inevitably be duplicated, which will burden the exchange of data with the BFSA. No mechanism is provided to simply confirm data submitted earlier in the chain from the importer to the retailer, i.e. there is repetition of the same type of information entry activity.
If all this information were stored in this form in the Central Registry for Food Traceability, its practical benefits would be quite limited. This is also the second group of questions – since the regulation does not provide what the register actually contains as information, how it is structured, or how it could be used. The technical security of the register has not been settled, nor the requirements for it – security, compatibility, etc. It is not clear how the information itself will be submitted by the traders.
Thirdly, it may be questioned how far this regulation, if adopted, would be consistent with the Bulgarian Law on Normative Acts. According to Art. 7, para. 2 of the same, an ordinance is issued for the implementation of separate provisions of a normative act of a higher degree. I.e. an ordinance can be issued only if this is expressly provided for – in this case, there is no such provision in a higher-level normative act. In the documents attached to the project, the Ministry of Agriculture refers to Art. 18 of Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 – but it only provides for food traceability, not the creation of a central register for this purpose. In addition, the question arises as to why Bulgaria is taking action to implement the regulation more than 20 years after its adoption. It can be argued whether in this case it is not more appropriate for the creation of the Central Registry for Food Traceability to be regulated by a decree, such as the Council of Ministers can adopt as a primary regulation of public relations – i.e. without having a previous regulation in another normative act of a higher degree. However, if the relations on the occasion of this register are socially significant and can be settled permanently, then they should necessarily be settled with the adoption of a new law by the National Assembly or an amendment and supplement to an already effective one.