New EU rules on human tissues and cells increase patient safety

The Commission has adopted two sets of rules for human tissues and cells to protect patients in the EU by ensuring high quality and safety standards.

The first set of rules set out the technical requirements that will facilitate tracing of all tissues and cells between donor and recipient. This will happen through a so-called ‘Single European Code’ and a Commission-hosted IT-platform to ensure uniform labelling of all tissues and cells distributed in the EU. In the case of a safety alert, this label will ensure that all recipients who received material from the same donor can be traced and treated as needed. It will also allow for unused tissues or cells to be discarded.

The second directive covers imports and sets out procedures for ensuring that tissues and cells imported from third countries meet the same safety and quality standards as those procured, processed and distributed in the EU. These rules will ensure the safety of EU recipients in need of tissues and cells, regardless of the origin of the material.

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Tracing animals and animal products across Europe

Each year, vast quantities of livestock and produce are traded into the EU to be served on 500 million European plates and the European Commission ensures both food and consumers are kept safe through TRACES (TRAde Control and Expert System).

This is a trans-European network which notifies, certifies and monitors imports, exports and trade in animals and animal products. Organisations all over the world can use this web-based network free of charge to trace animal and animal product movement.

Amongst other things, TRACES makes it possible to:

  •  Produce and exchange certificates, related to animals, animal products, by-products, semen and embryos, in 22 official EU languages
  •  Help authorities to take decisions for approval or rejection of the consignments presented
  •  Notify the authorities at origin and destination, of all stages in the journey plan made by the consignment
  •  Keep track of animal health, welfare and public veterinary health inspections on the consignment, carried out during transport or at destination
  •  React rapidly to possible health threats or epizootic risks by retracing the movements of the consignment
  • Obtain statistical information and reports on data inserted in TRACES
  • Speed up administrative procedures via its online interface
  • Speed up formalities at the border for products originating outside the EU

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Europe takes a common approach to blood

The European Union has agreed a common approach to facilitate comparisons between data sent to the Commission from member states on adverse events and reactions to blood and blood components.

These guidelines should reduce the burden of reporting by clarifying issues before data is collected each year.

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Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI)

The aim of this initiative is to forge stronger global collaboration on health security by addressing health threats from chemical, biological and radio/nuclear agents and by improving preparedness and responses to pandemics.

Health ministers and high level representatives from countries around the world meet regularly to take these issues forward and their last meeting focused particularly on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The EU’s top priority, according to its representative at the meeting, is to help stop the epidemic in the affected countries through deployment of financial and human resources for health care, laboratories, contact tracing, community outreach and key infrastructure including sanitation.

The EU is also providing assistance to help to rebuild health systems in the long term.

Other specific topics within the GHSI’s wide range of activities include public health measures, sample sharing, management of global health threats, the deployment of medical countermeasures, the support to the recovery phase after an emergency and the building of resilience.

For more information on the EU’s work on health security, click here on

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