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General Principles and Requirements of Food Law – Regulation (EC) No 178/2002

Food Safety, ISO Standards

General Requirements of Food Law

The European parliament lays down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety through Regulation (EC) No 178/2002.

The intention of this piece of legislation is to protect human health and consumer interest regarding food, and applies to all stages of production, processing and free distribution of food and feed within Europe. However, there is an exemption for primary production for private domestic use, and the domestic preparation, handling, or storage of food for private domestic consumption.

Food Law

 Regulation Key Requirements
  1. Risk Analysis:

Risk analysis is set out as a requirement in the protection of human health and life. Where risk assessments are required, the requirement states that risk assessments must be based on available scientific evidence and carried out in an independent, objective and transparent manner. Managing risk must consider the results of risk assessment carried out, particularly when the possibility of harmful effects on health has been identified. Measures to control risk must be adopted, be proportionate and reviewed on a regular basis.

  1. Consumer Interest:

The requirement to protect the consumer interest is focused on the ability for consumers to make informed choices in relation to the foods they consume. The aim of the requirement is to prevent fraudulent or deceptive practices, adulteration of food and any other practices which may mislead the consumer.

  1. Public Consultation:

This requirement seeks to ensure open and transparent public consultation, directly or through representative bodies, during the preparation, evaluation and revision of food law. The requirement aims to provide access of documents to the public, where food or feed is suspected to present a risk for human or animal health. If the risk is realised, public authorities take appropriate steps to inform the general public.

  1. Import & Export:

Under this requirement, the import and export of food and feed requires compliance with relevant food law requirements or conditions recognised to be at least equivalent or, where a specific agreement exists between the importing or exporting country.

  1. Food Safety:

The food safety requirements state that food cannot be placed on the market if it is unsafe. Unsafe meaning injurious to health or unfit for human consumption.

When determining if food is unsafe consideration must be given to the normal conditions of use by the consumer and at each stage of production, processing and distribution. Information must be provided to the consumer. This information should be provided on a label and should include avoidance of food where specific adverse health effects from a particular food or category of foods exists.

When determining if food is injurious to health consideration must be given to not only the probable immediate and/or short-term and/or long-term effects of that food on the health of a person consuming it, but also on subsequent generations, to the probable cumulative toxic effects, to the particular health sensitivities of a specific category of consumers where the food is intended for that category of consumers.

When determining whether any food is unfit for human consumption, consideration must be given to whether the food is unacceptable for human consumption according to its intended use or has it been contaminated.

If unsafe food is found as part of a batch, lot or consignment, then the entire batch must be considered unsafe unless extensive analysis proves otherwise.

  1. Feed Safety:

The feed safety requirements state that feed cannot be placed on the market or fed to any food-producing animal if it is unsafe. Unsafe meaning for its intended use if it is considered to have an adverse effect on human or animal health, or make the food derived from food-producing animals unsafe for human consumption.

When feed which has been identified as not satisfying the feed safety requirements is part of a batch, lot or consignment, then the entire batch must be considered unsafe unless extensive analysis proves otherwise.


Management systems in existence, such as ISO 22000:2018, can be used as a framework to manage the requirements that have been discussed above, along with other legal and business requirements. This international standard is based on Annex SL; a high-level structure with identical core text, and common terms and definitions. This structure allows for integration with other management systems that prescribe the same high-level structure.

Food Law , Food Safety , Food Safety Authority , General Principles and Requirements of Food Law
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