ISRAEL – In an effort to lower the exorbitant cost of living in the nation, the Israeli government has authorized a plan to follow European food safety standards, abolishing the great majority of Israeli requirements.

The changes will affect the production and import of items such as canned vegetables, pasta, rice, candies, spices, soup powder, condiments and milk products, among others.

“You know how Israelis always come back [from Europe] and say, ‘Why is it so much cheaper in Berlin?’ Because Berlin uses European standards and they are cheaper. So we are bringing them to Israel,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a video statement about the measure.

Israel’s cost of living is among the highest among OECD member nations, however this has often been attributed to import restrictions that prevent foreign companies from operating there, as well as a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers, which allows them to hike prices.

An Interministerial Committee headed by Yoel Bris, a former Legal Adviser to the Finance Ministry, decided to adopt the European criteria.

The Health Ministry, Economy Ministry, Finance Ministry, Justice Ministry, Consumer Protection Authority, and Competition Authority were all represented.

The adoption of European food standards in place of Israeli ones will go into effect on January 1. On that date, 97 of the present 127 food requirements will be instantly repealed for imports into Israel.

However, for domestic manufacturers, the 97 safety criteria will be phased out over the course of four years, with 60 being abolished on January 1, 21 being withdrawn a year later, one being eliminated the next year, and 15 being eliminated on August.

The Interministerial group also advised that Israel adopt the American and European quality control standards for honey, olive oil, instant coffee, and roasted coffee, and let importers and manufacturers choose which standard to adhere to.

However, the law now controlling such products needs to be amended before this may take effect, as reported by The Times of Israel (TOI).

“The committee followed one and only one guiding principle for allowing Israeli standards to remain: An Israeli standard will only remain in place if eliminating it would cause a total regulatory vacuum that would threaten the public health,” the government said in a statement.

Cabinet ministers hailed the move as being crucial in the struggle against the rising cost of living.

“Matching Israeli regulations with those accepted around the world is the key to increasing competition and bringing down prices for the consumer. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel and to add specialized and unnecessary bureaucracy,” Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said.

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