Food Safety

Food safety Food Production, Processing and Hygiene

The publication of the Commission’s White Paper on Food Safety in 2000 marked an important milestone for EU policy in this area. In this paper, the Commission outlined an entirely new approach to EU food safety legislation. One of the main principles set out in the White Paper was that EU food safety rules should apply “from farm to fork”. This means that every single step in the food production chain – from farming to retail – is covered by EU food safety legislation. More responsibility was placed on food operators for ensuring that products reaching EU consumers were safe for consumption.

The White Paper paved the way for a complete overhaul of EU food hygiene legislation. In 2004, the “Hygiene Package” was adopted, replacing the numerous hygiene Directives with a harmonized, simplified and comprehensive set of rules on hygiene which were to apply at every stage of the food chain. This legislation, which entered into effect on 1 January 2006, laid down general rules on food and feed hygiene, as well as specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin. Among the changes introduced through the Hygiene Package was the requirement that everyone in the food industry carry out self-checks and follow the HACCP principles. Food and feed operators must be registered and are fully liable if unsafe food or feed is found on the market.

An important piece of legislation to complete the EU hygiene rules relates to microbiological criteria. Food is often susceptible to contamination by microorganisms such as bacteria during its production. Microbiological criteria can therefore be used to check whether the presence and level of certain microbes will affect the safety of the final food products. Under EU legislation, microbiological criteria are set for certain bacteria, such as Salmonella and Listeria, in the main food categories e.g. meat, fish, dairy products, ready-to-eat foods, fruit and vegetables. By laying down safety criteria for the main bacteria which can be found in food, the aim is to reduce the number of food-borne illnesses contracted in the EU. This legislation was also important as it harmonized the measures across the EU, replacing the diverse legislation in all Member States.


Reference: 50 years of food safety in the European Union, ISBN 92-79-03827-3