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Food Safety

Crisis preparedness & management

EU legislation is built in accordance with the principle that prevention is better than cure. It thus aims at preventing outbreaks of food-borne disease through a set of comprehensive standards relating inter alia to good hygiene, limits of residues of substances used in the food chain, own-checks, official controls, etc.

Nevertheless crises occasionally occur. Past food and feed safety crises (such as BSE in the 90's, dioxin in 1999, verotoxin-producing Escherichia. coli (VTEC) in sprouts in 2011) caused human suffering and even casualties. In addition they had a tremendous impact on the European economy.

Preparedness and management of crises related to food and feed safety aims to avoid or minimise the health and economic impact of possible future crises.

Legal rules

Supporting actions by the Commission and European agencies

The EU is equipped with rapid alert systems allowing real-time exchange of information on:

  • distribution and investigations of affected food and feed batches: RASFF
  • and real-time exchange of information on human cases: EWRS

The European Commission coordinates investigations both on the public health side (information from human cases) and towards the food source in different EU countries by organising, if needed daily, meetings of the responsible national coordinators. It also tries to streamline the communication to citizens and trade partners, for instance on advice to travellers.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Prevention and Control of Diseases (ECDC) provide at a very early stage joint rapid outbreak assessments supporting investigations by the public health and food safety authorities.

In collaboration with the European Reference Laboratories, EFSA and ECDC developed a data base for the molecular testing of foodborne pathogens in view of outbreak preparedness, based on Commission Vision Paper endorsed by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.

Furthermore, lessons are drawn from past outbreaks such as the VTEC outbreak of 2011 .