New EU food hygiene legislation has been implemented in the UK since 1 January 2006. It affects all businesses involved in the handling of food. This encompasses the whole of the food chain, from fishermen to retailers selling to the final consumer.
The general principles of food law are already established by Regulation 178/2002, which is enforced in the UK by the Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended) and the General Food Regulations 2004.
In July 2000, the European Commission updated and consolidated the 17 existing hygiene directives into one package. This is intended to protect public health by introducing consistency and clarity throughout the food production chain. It sets out basic controls (Regulation 852/2004) on food safety which must be applied by all food businesses including primary producers. Food businesses which are considered to present higher risks to food safety are subject to additional controls (Regulation 853/2004).
The emphasis of the new rules is that all controls should be proportionate to the risk. A hazard analysis scheme (HACCP) is required by all food businesses (except primary production). This allows businesses to consider and control the risks specific to their business and removes the burden of the unnecessary regulation found in the previous legislation.
And the legislation…
- Regulation 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs.
- Regulation 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.
- Regulation 854/2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption.
- Regulation 882/2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules.
- Regulation 2073/2005 covers the microbiological criteria now established by the EU in collaboration with Member States in accordance with EC Regulation 852/2004.
- Regulation 2074/2005 contains details about visual inspection, candling, total volatile basic nitrogen and marine biotoxins.
- EC Directive 2004/41 lists the legislation being revoked (and that being amended).
- Regulation 2076/2005 lays down transitional arrangements for the implementation of certain parts of the hygiene regulations. The transitional period is set at 4 years (up to 31 Dec 2009).
Later minor amendments to the hygiene regulations were published in the Official Journal L320 (2006). They temporarily re-introduce an allowable 10% exceedance for Class B shellfish harvesting waters, and they introduce changes to health certificates for imports of fishery products and live bivalve molluscs. This FSA note contains more information.
On 11 January 2006, the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 in England (and similar legislation in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) revoked and replaced most of the existing food hygiene national legislation. Also, these two pieces of legislation enact Regulation 178/2002:
- The Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended) prohibits the placing on the market of unsafe food and prohibits food being presented or labelled in such a way as to mislead the consumer. It also includes due diligence defence for offences.
- The General Food Regulations 2004 enforce Regulation 178/2002 and introduce new requirements for traceability and for recall of unsafe food.
Seafish guidance to industry
Seafish has produced a hygiene legislation guide for the seafood industry in response to the hygiene legislation that came into force on 1 Jan 2006. You can view the guide (2006) here: Guide to recent developments in European Food Law for the seafood industry.
The Fishing Vessel Hygiene Checklists
Seafish, in collaboration with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), industry and enforcement representatives, has produced a number of Fishing Vessel Hygiene Checksheets for checking whether fishing vessels comply with minimum hygiene requirements. Seafish produced the checklists following advice from the FSA that the UK was required by European law to perform a basic hygiene inspection of all UK fishing vessels.
Good Practice Guides
In conjunction with Seafood Scotland, Seafish has produced national Good Practice Guides as recommended in Article 8 of EC Regulation 852/2004. They are available here. The European Commission has issued guidelines for the development of Good Practice Guides (GPGs) for hygiene or the application of HACCP principles. You can access them here: EU GPG guidelines.
Useful updates from the Food Standards Agency:
- Food Hygiene Legislation
- Background to the 2006 food hygiene legislation
- Microbiological criteria of foodtuffs
- Approved fishery product and live bivalve mollusc establishments in the UK
- Food hygiene regulations and the scallop industry
- Hygiene inspection charges (Official Controls Charges) for 2007
- FSA advice on fish to be eaten raw or almost raw
European Commission guidance
- Guidance document on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs
- Guidance document on the implementation of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 on the hygiene of food of animal origin
- Guidance document on the implementation of procedures based on the HACCP principles, and on the facilitation of the implementation of the HACCP principles in certain food businesses
- Guidance document - Key questions related to import requirements and the new rules on food hygiene and official food controls
- Community guide to good hygiene practices specific to the wholesale market management in the EU
- FAQ on flexibility for food business operators
- Guidance document on flexibility provisions for competent authorities