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Food safety

EU food safety policy was reformed in the early 2000s following several human food and animal feed crises, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The EU seeks to ensure:

  • food and animal feed are safe and nutritious;
  • there are high standards of animal health and welfare, as well as of plant protection (e.g. safe use of pesticides);
  • information is clear about the content (e.g. additives or preservatives), origin (traceability) and use of food (e.g. special diets).

EU food safety policy is mainly governed by Articles 168 (public health) and 169 (consumer protection) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

EU law covers the entire food chain - 'from farm to fork' - using an integrated approach. This addresses aspects ranging from labelling through packaging to hygiene.

Decisions in the field are based on independent, sound scientific advice given by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Food and Veterinary Office conducts on-the-spot inspections both in and outside the EU.

The EU has a rapid early warning system - RASFF - to protect people from non-compliant food.