Overview of incoming changes to European food safety and hygiene
Over the next two years, a number of legislative requirements
and changes are being introduced across Europe that aim to improve food safety
The new legislation builds upon existing European laws, recognising that
certain requirements apply to all food businesses, and that specific requirements
are needed for certain foods and businesses. The legislation repeals some
former requirements. There are Regulations (legally binding in all European
Union member states) and Directives (requirements which must be re-enacted
in member states’ domestic legislation) which cover:
||The general requirements regarding food law and food safety, effective
from January 2005 (Regulation 178/2002 )
||The general hygiene requirements concerning food, effective from January
2006 (Regulation 852/2004 )
||The specific hygiene requirements concerning food of animal origin,
effective from January 2006 (Regulation 853/2004 )
||The organisation of official controls on products of animal origin
intended for human consumption, effective from January 2006 (Regulation
||The rules regarding animal health for the organisation of the production,
processing and distribution of products of animal origin applicable
form January 2005 (Directive 2002/99 )
General requirements regarding food safety
Regulation 178/2002 established the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA,
in 2002. From 2005, this Regulation also places a clear responsibility on
food and feed businesses to:
- establish systems to ensure that they can trace food throughout
the food chain
- withdraw or recall food from the market where it does not comply
with food safety requirements
- notify authorities of any action they have taken to secure withdrawal
or recall of food or feed.
This Regulation also covers the safety of animal feedstuffs to ensure that
this does not indirectly cause illness or harm when humans consume animal
General requirements concerning food hygiene
Current European food hygiene legislation is spread across seventeen hygiene
directives, resulting in a rather unsystematic approach to food safety.
From January 2006, Regulation 852/2004 aims to harmonise food hygiene legislation
This Regulation lays down general requirements relating to food hygiene,
clarifying the existing responsibilities of food businesses. In a true ‘farm
to fork’ approach, primary producers are now subject to the hygiene requirements.
The legislation adopts a more flexible and risk-based approach than previous
requirements and, with some exceptions, applies to all food businesses.
An important development is that, in line with the principles established
in the Codex Alimentarius, food safety management systems based
on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles will be
mandatory for all food businesses. The HACCP approach is a recognised tool
to help food businesses reach a high standard of food safety. These systems
will differ in their level of sophistication depending on the potential
hazard of the business. This will not apply to primary producers for the
The Regulation also lays down the minimum requirements for the hygienic
structure and layout of food premises, personal hygiene, training of food
handlers and encourages the development of guides to good practice.
Specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin
Supplementing the general hygiene requirements, Regulation 853/2004 lays
down specific hygiene and animal welfare rules for the production and sale
of foods of animal origin, namely, milk and milk products, eggs and egg
products, fishery products, live bivalve molluscs and meat and poultry (including
game) and their products. Previously, these requirements were contained
in separate Directives. Only small effective changes have been made to the
This Regulation also covers the registration and approval of premises producing
and distributing these foods, requirements for their packaging and labelling
and specifies the microbiological criteria expected for certain foods.
Organisation of official controls and animal health rules concerning
products of animal origin
Regulation 854/2004 and Directive 2002/99 cover the regulatory framework
to ensure the safe and hygienic production of the food products covered
by Regulation 853/2004 and the health requirements of food animals destined
for human consumption respectively. Tasks of the official veterinarian are
specified along with ante- and postmortem inspection requirements and the
animal health conditions demanded. The general aim is to prevent the introduction
or spread of animal diseases or zoonoses from products of animal origin
to humans or livestock. The requirements have also not fundamentally changed
The requirements described above introduce clearer legal principles to
prevent, eliminate or control the contamination of food with pathogens with
the aim of reducing or preventing the occurrence of foodborne infections.
In addition, they will assist in tracing food during an outbreak of foodborne
infection and also clarify situations when food should be withdrawn from
sale to protect public health.
To fulfil the aims and objectives of the legislation, a combination of
consistent application by the food industry and legal enforcement in all
member states is needed.
* Applies from January 2005.