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Food Safety

Food law general requirements

Safety requirements

The safety of food is of critical importance. Consumers must have confidence and assurance that the food they buy will do them no harm or have an adverse effect.

The General Food Law Regulation establishes that only safe food and feed can be placed on the Union market or fed to food-producing animals. It also establishes basic criteria for establishing whether a food or feed is safe.


Tracing food and feed throughout the food chain is very important for the protection of consumers, particularly when food and feed are found to be faulty. The General Food Law Regulation defines traceability as the ability to trace and follow food, feed, and ingredients through all stages of production, processing and distribution.


  • facilitates withdrawal of faulty food/feed from the market

  • provides consumers with targeted and accurate information on specific products

  • covers all food and feed, all food and feed business operators, without prejudice to existing legislation on specific sectors

  • affects importers who are required to be able to identify from whom the product was exported in the country of origin

  • obliges businesses to be able to identify at least the immediate supplier of the product in question and the immediate subsequent recipient, with the exemption of retailers to final consumers - one step back-one step forward (unless specific provisions for further traceability exist).

For more information: Factsheet on Traceability, 2007

More detailed traceability requirements in the context of the General Food Law Regulation are laid down for certain specific sectors:

Operators' responsibilities

Primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with food law - and in particular the safety of the food - rests with the food (or feed) business operators. To complement and support this principle, the competent authorities of the EU countries must assure adequate and effective controls.

When food or feed is unsafe, business operators are obliged to withdraw or recall it. They are also obliged to notify the competent national authorities so as to be able to monitor whether the appropriate measures have been taken or require that additional measures be taken for reducing or eliminating a food safety risk.

For more information: Leaflet on Key Obligations of Business Operators

Implementation guidance

A guidance document (HR version under development) on the implementation of the General Food Law aims to assist all players in the food chain to better understand the Regulation and to apply it correctly and in a uniform way. It provides guidance on main food law requirements:

  • food safety requirements

  • traceability of food and feed products

  • responsibility of operators

  • withdrawal, recall and notification for food and feed in relation to safety requirements

  • import and export.

As a rule, the guidelines do not address specific issues faced by particular types of businesses. However, following a request form the European Parliament, the Commission presented its position on the way the traceability requirements apply to charities.

For more information check the Question (available in French and German) and the Reply (available in French and German) regarding the traceability requirements.

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