The food hygiene package, the regulation on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs, the regulation on official feed and food controls and the feed hygiene regulation, constitute a complementary set of rules to tighten and harmonise EU food safety measures.
These laws will apply at every point in the food chain, in line with the EU's "farm to fork" approach.
"The New Year brings a new level of protection for EU citizens as these food and feed safety rules become applicable," said Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.
"Consumers can be confident that the best possible food safety practices are now being applied at every step in the production chain. This legislation also offers benefits to food businesses and to our trading partners, by clarifying and simplifying the rules they must comply with".
Adopted in 2004, the hygiene package is a streamlined body of legislation that sets down stricter, clearer and more harmonised rules on the hygiene of foodstuffs, specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin, and specific rules for controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption.
Under the food hygiene legislation, the onus is placed on food operators to ensure that food reaching EU consumers is safe. They will have to apply compulsory self-checking programmes and follow the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in all sectors of the food industry.
The legislation foresees the establishment of guides to good practice, at either EU or national level to assist food operators with the implementation of self-checking programmes, and all food operators will have to be registered.
The new regulation harmonises and modernises EU microbiological criteria for foodstuffs, with the aim of increasing consumer protection and reducing food-borne illnesses. Microbiological criteria are set for certain bacteria, such as salmonella and listeria. Other pathogens may be added in the future, following evaluations by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Food operators again have primary responsibility for ensuring that the criteria are met at a specific point of the food chain determined in the regulation, while national authorities must verify that the rules are complied with.
Many food crises have started with contaminated feed. Regulation 183/2005 on feed hygiene provides rules on the production, transport, storage and handling of animal feed, with a view to ensuring safer feed and thus safer food.
As with food operators, feed businesses have primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of products put on the market. Of particular importance is the liability of feed operators to pay for the costs, such as withdrawal from the market and destruction of feed, if something goes wrong with as a result of infringements of EU feed safety legislation.
Official food and feed controls
New rules for controls on all food and feed production will also have to be applied from 1 January 2006, both in the EU and in third countries wishing to export to the EU. The official food and feed controls regulation sets out harmonised EU control systems, covering both food and feed safety, and animal health and welfare standards.
With regard to import controls, all third countries will be required to present guarantees that products destined for the EU market meet the necessary standards.