The European Union food safety policies are governed by the General Food Law of 2002, which is supposed to facilitate free trade in food across the EU by ensuring the same level of consumer protection in all the Member States.
The EU food law covers a number of food-related issues, in particular food safety as well as information about food and animal welfare. Food safety extends to the entire food chain, beginning with high quality agricultural crops and feed to the right food production technologies and a safe trade network. This ensures full traceability of all food and feed produced and sold in the European Union. Meanwhile, consumers receive detailed information on the content of the food products they eat. Products must have clear labels with important information on allergens and nutrients, including energy value and the content of fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugar, protein and salt. Food labels also contain information on the manufacturer, distributor, importer, storage conditions and preparation for certain types of food.
With these policies, EU Member States may control and prevent diseases and reduce the risk of their occurrence in an effective and coordinated way.
The EU Food Safety Law is founded on a number of common principles executed by all Member States.
- Public health protection;
- Plant health protection and animal health and welfare protection;
- Risk analysis and introducing precautions;
- Traceability of all products;
- Clear and transparent information of food and feed;
- Explicitly defined scope of responsibility for placing only safe food on the market;
- Strict and frequent controls;
- Training and education and independent scientific counselling.
The rules of production and quality systems
Food production and processing must comply with high standards and legal requirements so that the products delivered to consumers are safe and reliable. The European Union applies its own systems as well as certain effective global systems. This way, uniform standards and transparency of production are ensured. Food manufacturers implement modern quality management systems to ensure high quality and safety of their products. They apply the following systems and practices:
HACCP – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points
HACCP – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points – a systemic procedure to identify and determine the scale of food safety hazards from the perspective of food health quality and the risk of those hazards occurring at every stage of food production and distribution. HACCP helps identify the methods for limiting those hazards.
HACCP is a procedure to ensure food quality by identifying and determining the scale of hazards from the perspective of food health requirements and the risk of those hazards occurring at every stage of food production and distribution.
Implementing the HACCP system is good both for the consumer and for the entrepreneur who produces food. The obligation to implement the HACCP system in companies guarantees food safety for consumers. Entrepreneurs who have a properly functioning system build consumer trust in the company and improve the company’s image.
According to the Regulation European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food, companies must develop and implement 7 principles of the system, namely:
Principle 1: Conduct risk analysis.
Principle 2: Identify Critical Control Points (CCP).
Principle 3: Determine critical limits.
Principle 4: Determine monitoring procedures.
Principle 5: Determine corrective measures.
Principle 6: Determine verification procedures.
Principle 7: Develop and update documentation and determine data registering and storing methods.
GHP – Good Hygienic Practices
GHP – Good Hygienic Practices are measures that need to be taken and hygienic conditions that need to be ensured and controlled at every stage of production and distribution in order to ensure food safety.
The Good Hygienic Practices system applies to:
All the techniques and work methods used in a company as well as hygiene recommendations should be described in relevant procedures or instructions. Procedures and instructions concerning Good Hygiene Practices should be strictly observed by all employees.
GMP – Good Manufacturing Practices
GMP – Good Manufacturing Practices are an important part of the overall HACCP food safety system in the food industry. These are the measures that need to be taken and conditions that need to be met so that the adequate level of health quality is ensured in food production. Good Manufacturing Practices may be defined as operational requirements to ensure safe food production in the food industry. A strong focus is placed on compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices in all relevant food-related provisions and client certification standards.
Good Manufacturing Practices are important for safe food production. The food industry has the legal and moral obligation to manufacture and deliver food that will not be hazardous to the consumer. Food companies may incur high costs if they do not implement adequate Good Manufacturing Practices. The entire personnel of food companies should be trained in GMPs.
Good Manufacturing Practices cover a number of basic operational conditions and procedures that a food company must comply with. They may include the following:
GAP – Good Agricultural Practices
GAP – Good Agricultural Practices are production guidelines for farmers on how to reduce the risk of microbiological contamination associated with foodborne diseases in their farms.
Good agricultural practices are applied as a set of principles regarding agricultural production and manufacturing processes, resulting in safe foods and other agricultural products, while at the same time taking into account economic, social and environmental sustainability.
GAPs oblige farmers to observe waiting periods after application of fertilisers, plant protection products or medicines for the purpose of food protection.
They also specify how to feed and what to feed farm animals with, how to fertilise and how to ensure consumer safety through primary production.
The European Commission ensures compliance with the EU food law by:
The Food and Veterinary office controls food quality protection systems in food production facilities in the EU. The main goal is to verify whether the governments of EU Member States and other countries have adequate mechanisms to ensure that local food producers comply with strict EU safety standards. Since 2013, the VFO has also been controlling medical products.
Individual controls may also be conducted if any irregularities are reported in a given Member State. The purpose of the controls is the evaluate the work of official institutions in the production chain of for example beef and execution of EU requirements and to acquire information on measures taken in the event of, for example, detection of illegal cattle slaughter. Such controls make it possible to verify restrictions and confirm there are no loopholes or irregularities.
The European Commission also maintains the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), which enables Member States to quickly exchange information on food safety hazards. The system identifies hazards in a specific country and notifies other countries about the hazardous product and the measures taken to eliminate the risk immediately.