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Food Safety

The history of RASFF

History of RASFF

Created in 1979 in response to an incident concerning oranges, RASFF (called the “Rapid Alert System For Food” at the time) enabled authorities to share information efficiently for the first time. The ‘founding members’ were Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Other member countries accessed RASFF as soon as they entered the European Union. Early communications were done by phone and telex, later by fax and then by email. In 1994, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein became RASFF members within the framework of the European Economic Area.

The crucial year for RASFF was 2002, when the legal basis and formalised procedures for RASFF were laid down under Regulation (EC) N° 178/2002, the ‘General Food Law’. Until then, RASFF had its legal basis in the product safety Directive and Feed was not officially covered by the system.

Incorporating Feed was part of the lessons learned from serious crises in the past such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or dioxins that involved animals getting ill from contaminated feed.

In 2002 there were more than 3000 notifications, a rise of some 330% when compared to 1999 (698) and a near-doubling of the number in 2001 (1567).

These increases were in part due to the growing awareness following the significant food safety crises and the new legal basis that included border rejections and feed from then on.

These numbers continued to grow, as follows:

  • 2003: 4414
  • 2004: 5562
  • 2005: 7170

After that, the number of notifications seemed to have settled to about 7000 per year.

Nonetheless, in 2021, they reached the staggering 23674 notifications.

The overall growth in notifications shows the common interest of all members to share information and mutually inform one another. Over time, the use of RASFF became routine. 1 May 2004 saw 10 more countries join the EU, which meant 10 more Member States reporting on food safety issues.

While the number of notifications transmitted by the newly joined countries was initially relatively low, it quickly rose. In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria joined RASFF upon accession to the EU.

An agreement with Switzerland allowed it to join RASFF in 2009. In the same year, in time for the 30th anniversary of RASFF, RASFF Window became operational.

The RASFF Window gives non-RASFF member countries limited access to a database of RASFF notifications.

Before its creation, all RASFF communication with non-RASFF member countries went through the European Commission’s delegation in each country. This meant that transmitting notifications through the delegations to their host countries could take days.

RASFF’s growth triggered the need to develop an online platform called the iRASFF. This platform finally enabled members of the system to cooperate on notifications in real time, starting in 2011.

In the same year, the European Commission adopted Regulation 16/2011, laying down implementing measures for this system. It formalised the detailed operation of RASFF and the role of the European Commission as its central hub.

In 2013, Croatia joined RASFF upon accession to the EU.

In 2014, the European Commission opened the RASFF Consumers’ Portal, linking the notifications of the RASFF to information published online about product recalls.

The ‘Alert and Cooperation Network’ (ACN), established by Commission Regulation 2019/1715 on the Information Management System for Official Controls (the IMSOC Regulation), entered into force mid December 2019, implementing the IMSOC and merging the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation (AAC) network with the RASFF network and the Food Fraud network into a whole new entity: the Alert and Cooperation Network (ACN). Since April 2021, the three networks have been fully integrated using the iRASFF platform.