Food Safety in the EU

The Commission adopted a White Paper on Food Safety in January 2000, which signals a new regulatory approach aiming to restore confidence of the European public in food safety following several food crises (dioxins, BSE and Food-and-Mouth). This new “from the farm to the fork” approach draws together the various aspects of food safety along the food chain.

Background

The publication of the White Paper on Food Safety in January 2000 signals a new regulatory approach too food safety issues. This new "from the farm to the fork" approach draws together, for the first time, the various aspects of food safety along the food chain, from hygiene provisions to animal health, welfare and phytosanitary requirements. The White Paper contains more than 80 separate actions.

Issues

Regulation No 178/2002, which entered into force in January 2002, laid down the general principles and requirements of food law, created the European Food Safety Authority and established procedures in matters of food safety.

The Regulation:

  • stipulates that the delivery of safe food and animal feeds belongs to the food and feed producers;
  • specifies that foodstuffs, animal feed and feed ingredients must be traceable;
  • includes clear procedures for developing food law and dealing with food emergencies;
  • gives the Commission new powers to take emergency measures when national authorities are unable to contain an emerging food risk;
  • establishes the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, in the place of three previous Standing Committees, bringing together Member States representatives with important roles in decision-making on food safety issues.

 

Food hygiene policy  is being revised to create a package of new regulations by merging, harmonising and simplifying the detailed and complicated hygiene requirements that were scattered over 17 previous Directives. 

An EU approach to

animal feed controls  and official controls on food products  is being created, with the aim of improving coherence in present EU food legislation. The EU approach is based on a clear definition of the obligations of Member States and the Commission, respectively; as well as on enforcement measures. 

The Commission is currently revising the legal framework relating to

food labelling  . In particular, an important labelling innovation is expected to come into force by 2005, abolishing the "25% rule". This currently means that it is not obligatory to label the components of compound ingredients that make up less than 25% of the final food product. By including all ingredients in foodstuffs on the label, consumers suffering from food allergies, in particular, could be kept adequately informed.   

A new Commission proposal is in the pipeline relating to nutritional and health claims. The aim of the new directive will be to deter food companies across the EU from making "misleading" claims about the effects of their products. The new legislative proposal will form part of the general goal to keep European consumers "properly informed" in an effort to fight food-related diseases, such as obesity.

 

The European Food Safety Authority  was established to provide independent, scientific advice on the possible threats to food safety. The Authority is responsible for the scientific evaluation of risks, identification of emerging risks, scientific support to the Commission in the case of a food safety crisis, as well as for direct communication to the public on the issues it deals with. 

The White Paper on Food Safety announced various measures to tighten and streamline the Community rules governing

novel foods  and foods containing or derived from genetically modified organisms  (GMOs).   

Further Reading

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