Food and feed safety

Food and feed safety

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Food and feed safety


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Food safety > Veterinary checks animal health rules food hygiene

Food and feed safety

Document or Iniciative

Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety [See amending acts].


This Regulation ensures the quality of foodstuffs intended for human consumption and animal feed. It guarantees the free circulation of safe and secure food and feed in the internal market.

In addition, the European Union’s (EU) food legislation protects consumers against fraudulent or deceptive commercial practices. This legislation also aims to protect the health and wellbeing of animals, plant health and the environment.

Safety standards

No food stuff dangerous to health and/or unfit for consumption may be placed on the market. To determine whether a foodstuff is dangerous, the following are considered:

  • the normal conditions of use;
  • the information provided to the consumer;
  • the probable immediate or delayed effect on health;
  • the cumulative toxic effects;
  • the specific sensitivity of certain consumers.

Where any food which is unsafe is part of a batch, lot or consignment, it is assumed that the whole batch, lot or consignment is unsafe.

In addition, animal feed deemed to be unsafe cannot be placed on the market or fed to any food-producing animals.

Responsibilities of operators

Operators * must apply the food legislation at all stages of the food chain, from the production, processing, transport and distribution stages through to the supply of food.

In addition, operators are responsible for ensuring the traceability of products at all stages of the production, processing and distribution, including with regard to substances incorporated into the foodstuffs.

If an operator considers that a food or feed is harmful to human or animal health, they immediately initiate the procedures to withdraw the product from the market and inform the competent authorities. Where the product may have reached the consumer, the operator informs the consumers and recalls the products already supplied.

Food risk analysis

The health risk analysis is carried out in several phases: assessment, management and communication to the public. This process is carried out in an independent, objective and transparent manner. It is based on the available scientific evidence.

Where the assessment identifies the presence of a risk, the Member States and the Commission may apply the precautionary principle and adopt provisional and proportionate measures.

International market

The legislation applies to foodstuffs exported or re-exported in the EU before being placed on the market of a third country, except if the importing country decides otherwise.

The EU contributes to the development of international technical standards for food and feed, as well as for animal health and plant protection.

European food safety authority (EFSA)

A European Food Safety Authority provides scientific advice and scientific and technical support in all areas impacting on food safety. It constitutes an independent source of information on all matters in this field and ensures that the general public is kept informed.

Participation in EFSA is open to EU Member States and to other countries applying EU food safety law.

EFSA is also responsible for:

  • coordinating risk assessments and identifying emerging risks;
  • providing scientific and technical advice to the Commission, including in connection with crisis management;
  • collecting and publishing scientific and technical data in areas relating to food safety;
  • stablishing European networks of organisations operating in the field of food safety.

Rapid alert system

The rapid alert system (RAPEX) involves the Member States, the Commission and EFSA. It enables information exchange concerning:

  • measures aimed at restricting the placing in circulation or withdrawal of food or feed from the market;
  • actions taken with professional operators for controlling the use of food or feed;
  • the rejection of a batch or consignment of food or feed by an EU border post.

In the case of a food-related risk, the information disseminated within the rapid alert network must be made available to the general public.


Where food or feed, including those imported from a third country presents a serious and uncontainable risk to human health, animal health or the environment, the Commission puts in place protective measures and:

  • suspends the placing on the market or use of products originating from the EU;
  • suspends imports of products originating from third countries.

However, if the Commission does not act after having been informed of the existence of a risk, the Member State concerned may take protective measures. Within a period of 10 working days, the Commission must refer the matter to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health with a view to extending, amending or revoking the national measures.

Crisis-management plan

In the case of situations entailing direct or indirect risks to human health not provided for by the Regulation, the Commission, EFSA and the Member States may establish a general crisis-management plan.

Similarly, in the case of a serious risk, which cannot be dealt with under the existing provisions, the Commission must immediately set up a crisis unit, in which the Authority participates by providing scientific and technical support. The crisis unit is responsible for collecting and evaluating all relevant information and identifying the options available for preventing, eliminating or reducing the risk to human health.


Decisions 68/361/EEC, 69/414/EEC and 70/372/EEC are repealed.

Key terms of the Act
  • Operator: the natural or legal person responsible for ensuring that the requirements of food law are met within the food business under their control.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 178/2002



OJ L 031, 1. 2. 2002

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1642/2003


OJ L 245, 29.9.2003

Regulation (EC) No 575/2006


OJ L 100, 8.4.2006

Regulation (EC) No 202/2008


OJ L 60, 5.3.2008

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009


OJ L 188, 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated versionis of documentary value only.

Related Acts

Commission Regulation (EC) No 2230/2004 of 23 December 2004 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 with regard to the network of organisations operating in the fields within the European Food Safety Authority’s mission [Official Journal L 379 of 24.12.2004].

Commission Decision 2004/478/EC of 29 April 2004 concerning the adoption of a general plan for food/feed crisis management [Official Journal L 160 of 30.4.2004].

Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption [Official Journal L 139 of 30.4.2004].

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