Food safety - from farm to fork


Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs


The EU seeks to ensure the hygiene of food at all stages of the production process, from the primary production stage (mainly farming, hunting or fishing) to the final consumer. This EU law does not cover issues relating to nutrition, composition or quality, or the production or preparation of food in the home.


The Regulation and its annexes define a set of food safety objectives that firms working with food must meet.


The key principle is that everyone working in the food business must ensure hygienic practices at every stage of the production process.

Annex I to the Regulation covers activities connected with primary production (i.e. farming, hunting or fishing), and includes the transport, handling and storage of primary products and the transport of live animals.

The general hygiene objectives set out in Annex II cover areas such as:

food premises and equipment

transport conditions

food waste

water supply

personal hygiene and training of food workers

wrapping and packaging

heat treatment processes.

In addition, all businesses in the food sector must comply with Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, which sets out rules on food of animal origin.

Exceptions may sometimes be granted, for instance for small businesses directly supplying local customers. EU countries can adapt rules to suit certain local conditions, as long as food safety is not compromised.

The HACCP system

Businesses in the food sector (other than those involved in arable or livestock farming, hunting or fishing) should apply the principles of hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) brought in as part of the Codex Alimentarius. These principles, however, do not replace official checks. The aim is to:

identify critical control points and monitoring procedures

establish corrective measures

implement procedures to check whether measures are working effectively;

keep records.

EU countries must encourage the development of national guidelines based on HACCP principles, with the possibility of EU-wide guidelines if this is thought necessary.

Where required by national or EU legislation, businesses in the food sector must be approved and all premises registered with the appropriate authority.

Food imported into the EU and exported food of animal origin must comply with EU standards or their equivalent, as well as any requirements which the importing country may impose.

Traceability* rules, introduced under Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, now also apply to food imported into and exported from the EU, with certain new requirements.

Where a firm in the food sector discovers that a food presents a serious risk to health, it must immediately withdraw that food from the market, informing users and the relevant authority.


It entered into force on 20 May 2004.


*Traceability: the ability to trace and follow a food or food-producing animal through all stages of production, processing and distribution.


Food hygiene - Basic Legislation on the European Commission's website.


Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs (OJ L 139, 30.04.2004, pp. 1–54)

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 of 15 November 2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs (OJ L 338 of 22.12.2005, pp. 1–26). See consolidated version.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 2074/2005 of 5 December 2005 laying down implementing measures for certain products under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council and for the organisation of official controls under Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, derogating from Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council and amending Regulations (EC) No 853/2004 and (EC) No 854/2004 (OJ L 338 of 22.12.2005, pp. 27–59). See consolidated version.

last update 24.11.2015