For food producers, the increased global demand for food production provides both opportunities and responsibilities. Chief among those responsibilities is the importance of addressing the potential environmental impacts associated with agricultural and food production practices and activities. Indeed, participants in the food industry are subject to regulations under current environmental laws in most major jurisdictions around the world.
Environmental regulatory background in Italy
In Italy, environmental regulations applicable to all industries, including food producers, come under the scope of Italy’s Legislative Decree 152/2006 (otherwise referred to as Italy’s Environmental Protection Code). The provisions of the Code effectively transpose into Italian national law the requirements of applicable EU directives and regulations. Specifically, the Code establishes a framework regarding a number of environmental matters, including:
- Pollution prevention and control
- Environmental impact assessments
- Environmental strategic assessments
- Water policy and management
- Waste and packaging management
- Air quality
- Environmental damage
Enforcement under the Code is addressed through both criminal and administrative sanctions. Administrative sanctions can include both monetary and non-monetary penalties, such as suspension or revocation of a facility’s operations permits or seizure of production facilities and equipment.
The role of environmental impact assessments
Under Italy’s Environmental Protection Code, many types of projects require the completion of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a pre-condition of their approval and permitting. An EIA is a comprehensive analysis intended to identify and evaluate all of the potential environmental impacts, both positive and negative, directly or indirectly related to a particular project. An EIA report typically addresses each of the following elements:
- A description of the project
- Alternatives to the project that have been considered
- A description of the environment
- A description of the anticipated significant impacts on the environment
- Potential methods of mitigating significant impacts
- A non-technical summary of the assessment
- Identification of unknowns and potential challenges
In addition to completing an initial EIA, Italy’s Environmental Protection Code can also require periodic environmental monitoring to verify the accuracy of the EIA projections and estimations, as well as an assessment of any unforeseen environmental impacts that develop during the actual project.
Environmental remediation requirements
Italy’s Environmental Protection Code also includes requirement that address the remediation of sites that have been contaminated or polluted. For the purposes of the Code, the scope of a site subject to remediation from contamination includes the soil and subsoil areas of the site, as well as groundwater on or directly adjacent to the site.
Sites that have been identified as contaminated are subject to a site characterisation study intended to determine the scope of the contamination and the potential risks to the environment. Under a site characterisation study, soil and groundwater are tested for the presence of substances that are either limited or banned under environmental regulations. When testing reveals the presence of banned substances or regulated substances above established thresholds, remediation measures must be implemented. Even in cases where operations are ongoing, provisional remediation efforts are required to mitigate the risk of further contamination.
Emissions and industrial process controls
All agricultural and food production activities generate some form of environmental emissions. These include:
- Waste — Production activities generate both solid and liquid waste, and Italy’s Environmental Protection Code mandates that all forms of waste be characterised and classified to help ensure proper environmental management. The Code prohibits the mixing of hazardous and non-hazardous waste, the indiscriminate dumping of waste, as well as the incineration of waste in the open. All legitimate waste management activities must be conducted under the scope of a valid permit.
- Wastewater — Water is a precious resource, and the Environmental Protection Code strictly prohibits the discharge of wastewater containing substances that have been limited or banned under the Code into the soil, or into wells or other sources of drinking water. As with waste management activities, a permit is required to discharge wastewater, and dischargers must comply with applicable limits as established in the code.
- Emissions into the atmosphere — Industrial processes often produce a wide range of polluting compounds which are discharged into the atmosphere. Under Italy’s Environmental Protection Code, any activity that produces the emission of such polluting compounds must be authorised by authorities and comply with the emissions limits as defined in the Code. In many cases, continuous monitoring of emissions is required to ensure ongoing compliance with these defined emissions limits.
About TÜV SÜD’s pH laboratory
Founded in 1982 and located near Florence, Italy, the pH laboratory gained worldwide attention in the 1980s as the first food testing laboratory to identify the presence of methyl alcohol in wine. The Laboratory was acquired by TÜV Italia in 2013, and now conducts comprehensive testing of food products and food contact materials, as well as environmental testing in support of a wide range of industries, including agricultural and food production activities. TÜV SÜD pH is accredited in accordance with ISO 17025, and currently has more than 130 specialists addressing technical and scientific issues associated with the safety of food and the protection of the environment and the health and safety of workers.
In the area of environmental testing, TÜV SÜD offers agricultural and food producers a full range of testing and assay services design to support compliance with all aspects of Italy’s Environmental Protection Code. These include the development of environmental impact assessments and remediation plans, as well as sampling of emissions for compliance with specified limits. Additional services include the monitoring and assessment of health and safety risks, as well as support for environmental sustainability efforts.
For more information about our environmental services, contact us at email@example.com.