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Summaries of EU Legislation

Quick-frozen food

Quick-freezing, packaging, labelling and inspection of quick-frozen foodstuffs are harmonised at European level. Quick-frozen foodstuffs must be labelled as "quick-frozen" and indicate the batch identification. The freezing temperature must be -18°C or lower, except during transport and delivery. The only cryogenic media authorised are air, nitrogen and carbon dioxide.


Council Directive 89/108/EEC of 21 December 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to quick-frozen foodstuffs for human consumption [See amending acts].


The Directive lays down the rules for the quick-freezing, packaging, labelling and inspection of quick-frozen foodstuffs.

Freezing process

Quick-frozen foodstuffs are those subjected to the "quick-freezing" process, in which the temperature zone of maximum crystallisation is spanned as rapidly as possible and the product is then held (after thermal stabilisation) at a temperature of -18°C or lower.

Quick freezing must be carried out promptly, using appropriate technical equipment, on raw materials of sound, genuine and merchantable quality. Only air, nitrogen and carbon dioxide meeting specific purity criteria may be employed as cryogenic media. The purity criteria are set by the Commission.

Deviations from the temperature of -18°C for quick-frozen foods are permitted during transport and local distribution and in retail display cabinets. The temperature in such instances must not exceed 3°C. However, it may be as much as 6°C in retail display cabinets if Member States so decide.

Product packaging

Quick-frozen foods must be packaged in pre-packaging which protects them against external contamination and drying.

The labelling of quick-frozen foods must include the sales name, the indication "quick-frozen" and the batch identification. The other compulsory information varies according to whom the product is intended for:

  • ultimate consumers, restaurants, hospitals, canteens: the date of minimum durability, the period during which the product may be stored by the purchaser, the storage temperature and the storage equipment required;
  • others: the net quantity and the identity of the manufacturer, packer or seller.

Official checks

Member States must ensure that the equipment used for quick-frozen foods complies with the Directive and they must conduct random official checks on product temperature.

The Commission must adopt the detailed rules for sampling and for monitoring temperature in the modes of transport, warehousing and storage.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 89/108/EEC



OJ L 40 of 11.2.1989

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Act of Accession of Norway, Austria, Finland and Sweden



OJ C 241 of 29.8.1994

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003



OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Acts of Accession of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia - Annex II: List referred to in Article 20 of the Act of Accession - 1. Free movement of goods - J. Foodstuffs.



OJ L 236 of 23.9.2003

Directive 2006/107/EC



OJ L 363 of 20.12.06

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008


Agreement on the European Economic Area – Annex II – Technical regulations, standards, testing and certifications – List provided by Article 23 [Official Journal L 1 of 3.1.1994]. Directive 89/396/EEC applies to member countries of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Commission Regulation (EC) No 37/2005 of 12 January 2005 on the monitoring of temperatures in the means of transport, warehousing and storage of quick-frozen foodstuffs intended for human consumption (Text with EEA relevance) [Official Journal L 10 of 13.1.2005].

Commission Directive 92/2/EEC of 13 January 1992 laying down the sampling procedure and the Community method of analysis for the control of the temperatures of quick-frozen foods intended for human consumption [Official Journal L 34 of 11.2.1992].

Last updated: 18.02.2011