The European Commission carries out controls aimed at monitoring the implementation and enforcement of EU legislation on food and feed safety, animal health, animal welfare, plant health and in certain areas of human health protection. This means that EU citizens enjoy a high level of safety, and that goods are traded in safe conditions. Within the Commission, the responsibility for this work has been assigned to the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety.
How does the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety achieve this?
The Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety has a specific division that dedicates most of its resources to Commission controls: the department for health and food audits and analysis. Formerly known as the Food and Veterinary Office, it is located in Ireland. It has a team of 160 professionals from most EU countries that carries out controls to ensure that the national authorities in EU countries and non-EU countries exporting to the EU are fulfilling their legal obligations. In general, this is done by audits focusing on control systems rather than individual premises, but other controls such as fact-finding studies are also carried out. The department produces reports of its control activities, which are, with few exceptions, publicly available on this website. You can find these reports by clicking on audit reports, or on the interactive map.
Who decides the topics and countries to control?
The Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety develops a multi-annual plan that sets out the priorities for its controls for the following 5 years. This prioritisation takes account of legal requirements for Commission controls, the risk posed in the policy areas of the control universe, as well as the Commission’s political priorities. Each year, on the basis of the multi-annual plan, it also establishes and publishes an annual work programme, produced in consultation with other Commission services (where relevant) and with EU countries. The programme provides a balance between EU countries and non-EU countries.
To learn more about our activities in the areas of audit, controls other than audits and non-control activities please click on the items below.
What happens during an audit?
The audit team is typically composed of two auditors, often with the presence of a national expert from an EU country. The team gathers information prior to the audit, by sending out an audit plan and pre-audit questionnaire. It arranges an audit programme that will typically visit the control authority, a number of regional and local authorities, laboratories and a number of accompanied site visits (e.g. to farms, processors, feed units, slaughterhouses and retailers). The information gathered leads to a series of findings which are presented at a closing meeting and then in a written report.
What if the audit identifies deficiencies?
Audit reports may make recommendations to assist the competent authorities in taking corrective measures. The actions taken are followed up either administratively, or in general follow-up audits in EU countries, or by on-the-spot audits.
If non-compliances are sufficiently serious, the European Commission in agreement with EU countries may take stronger actions. These include legal action, restrictions or even bans on the movement of goods or animals.
What else is done?
The Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety produces overview reports, which summarise the situation in a certain sector across Europe on a given topic. Overview reports are presented to the EU countries through the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed and other similar committees. They are also discussed with stakeholders through external seminars and training. This helps with implementation, or may help in the production or review of EU legislation. Overview reports are also be used in training sessions, mainly in the framework of the Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF) programme.
The division for health and food audits and analysis also performs a number of other significant activities as briefly summarised below.
The health and food audits and analysis directorate carries out a range of other controls or analyses on
- Non-EU countries access to EU market: it evaluates the files submitted by non-EU countries to support their requests to export meat and meat products, milk and dairy products, fish and poultry to the EU. This evaluation determines whether the country can satisfy the EU import requirements for the commodities in question. Once the non-EU countries are approved, the establishments authorised for the export are listed.
- Residues of veterinary medicinal products in food of animal origin: it evaluates the residue monitoring plans submitted by the EU countries and by non-EU countries. For these countries, this work has a direct bearing on their export status and ability to trade products of animal origin to the EU.
- Import controls: it is responsible for the technical evaluation of the EU country plans related to the facilities at Border Control Posts (BCPs). This includes new BCPs as well as modifications to existing facilities. The outcome of these evaluations supports the review of the list of approved BCPs.
- Human pharmaceuticals: it assesses non-EU countries' legislation governing good manufacturing practices for pharmacologically active substances, which contributes to the listing of non-EU countries having an equivalent system to that in the EU.
- Medical devices - Joint assessments: these controls aim to ensure that only appropriately resourced, adequately performing and reliable notified bodies in the field of medical devices are designated. Notified bodies are conformity assessment bodies responsible for checking that medical devices meet the relevant legal requirements, resulting in certification and CE marking. Joint assessment teams are composed of experts from the Commission and national designating authorities.
- Antimicrobial resistance – Joint country visits: the Directorate-General carries out, jointly with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), country visits to EU countries on antimicrobial resistance from a One Health perspective. The aim of the visits is supporting EU countries in the preparation and implementation of national action plans on preventing the development of antimicrobial resistance.
- Fact-finding studies: these controls are organised in anticipation of the applicability of legal requirements, or in areas where the Commission needs to complete its knowledge about the operation of legislation. The results of these studies provide input into the preparation of subsequent audits, or into the review or development of legislation.
The health and food audits and analysis directorate is also responsible for significant non-control activities such as those listed below. For more information, see also the health and food audit and analyses programme.
- Sustainable use of pesticides: it is responsible for the development of the policy on sustainable use of pesticides, which encompasses a range of activities.
- “Better Training for Safer Food” (BTSF) programme: it establishes priorities for training activities and the training programme itself.
- In the plant health area, it develops and operates EUROPHYT-Outbreaks, the alert system for the notification by EU countries of plant pest outbreaks. It also collects, analyses and prepares presentations on data from surveys for harmful organisms carried out by the EU countries.
- EU country networks: it chairs two separate Networks of officials from national competent authorities in the EU countries and EFTA countries; the first relates to the Multi Annual National Control Plan (MANCP) provided for in Regulation (EC) No 2017/625 and the second relates to the performance of audits of official controls. These networks meet regularly to exchange experiences on the preparation, implementation and reporting of national MANCPs and on the implementation of national audit systems on official control activities.
- Export to non-EU countries: it provides supports to EU countries when those want to export animal and non-animal products to countries outside the EU. This is done mainly by receiving non-EU country delegations to inform them about the European Union’s control systems and the role of Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety. On occasion EU-auditors also participate as observers in non-EU countries' inspections conducted in EU countries.
Our annual reports describe the overall outcome of national and Commission control activities to ensure a high level of health and food safety.
Our annual work programme identifies the work priorities in context of identified risks, legal obligations and Commission priorities.
Search and view Audit reports produced by the department.
Search and view Overview reports produced by the department.
View the map, select a country to see a list of audits.
A compilation of key information for each Member State.
See our latest publications and news.
A selection of videos to help demonstrate what we do.