EU Food Hygiene Law

The purpose of food legislation is

  • to prevent or eliminate risks arising either directly or via the environment for humans and animals and reduce risks to an acceptable level.
  • to guarantee fair practices as regards trade in food and feed and the protection of consumer interests including food labelling and other forms of information for consumers.

EU legislation on food of animal origin lays down specific hygiene rules in order to ensure food safety and public health.

Official controls include any form of control performed by authorities or by the Community for the verification of compliance with food and feed laws. It includes the legislation on the official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

The competent authorities must approve establishments that comply with European Union legislation on food hygiene. Food business operators must provide competent authorities with the assistance necessary to carry out controls. They must provide access to premises and allow access to documents and records. The controls include audits of good hygiene practices and HACC principles as well as specific controls required in particular sectors.

Fresh meat

There are specific hygiene standards for meat products. Depending on the type of animal, they cover the raw materials which may not be used in the manufacture of meat products.

The legislation applies to unprocessed and processed products of animal origin. It does not apply to foods consisting of both plant and plant origin and processed products of animal origin unless indicated to the contrary. The legislation does not apply to the retail trade nor to primary production for private consumption.

Establishments handling products of animal origin must be registered and where necessary approved by the competent authority in their state. This does not apply to establishments engaged in primary production, transport, or storage of products not requiring temperature controls, storage conditions and retail operations not subject to the legislation.

Where required by the legislation, products of animal origin intended for human consumption must be given a health mark applied in accordance with the legislation in accordance with the official controls. Alternatively, an identification mark may be applied to the product before it leaves the product establishment if their packaging or wrapping is removed or it is further processed in another establishment.

The mark must be legible, indelible, and clearly visible for the authorities and must show the name of the exporting country and the establishment approval number where the operations took place. When applied within the EU, the mark must bear an oval shape and include the specified identifying abbreviation.

Third Countries

The Commission draws up lists of non-EU states from which imports of products of animal origin are permitted.  A third country may be included on the list if European control is taking place in that country and it demonstrates that the competent authority provides appropriate guarantees that the provisions comply with or are equivalent to EU standards.

An establishment may only be included in the list if

  • the competent authority in the third country guarantees that the establishment as well as other establishments handling raw materials of animal origin used in the production of the product comply with relevant requirements, specifically those on food safety and health.
  • an official inspection service in the country carries out monitoring of establishments and makes available to the EU Commission where necessary, all relevant information on the establishments providing raw materials.
  • the service has the power to prevent establishments from exporting to the EU in the event they do not comply with the detailed requirements.

When drawing up lists, account is taken of

  • the existing legislation of the third country
  • the organization and powers of the authority and inspection services
  • the situation regarding animal health, zoonosis, and plant health as well as procedures for notifying the Commission and competent international bodies of animal and plant diseases which occur
  • experience gained in relation to marketing with respect to the third country and its collaboration in exchanging information, particularly on health risks.
  • the result of EU inspections and audits carried out in the country.
  • the existence in the country of legislation on animal nutritional programs for monitoring zoonosis and residue.
  • whether the legislation provides instructions to ensure that slaughterhouse operators receive food chain information on all animals.

Account is taken of traditional production methods and authorities may grant special conditions for applying appropriate hygiene rules in these sectors.

Meat of domestic ungulates

Animals must be collected and transported carefully so as not to cause unnecessary distress. Animals showing symptoms of disease or contamination or from contaminated herds or flocks may not be transported except with special authorization.

Antemortem and postmortem inspections must be carried out in accordance with the legislation and controls of products of animal origin intended for human consumption.

With a view to minimizing contamination of meat, specific hygiene rules cover the following:

  • construction and equipment of slaughterhouses.
  • slaughter process in general and emergency slaughter in particular. #[5:06], bleeding, skinning, dressing, and evisceration.
  • cutting and boning operations in cutting plants.
  • control of health marking of meat by an official veterinarian.
  • storage, transport, and maturation of meat.


Poultry must be collected and transported carefully so as to not to cause unnecessary distress. Those showing symptoms of disease or from contaminated flocks may not be transported other than with special authorization.

Antemortem and postmortem inspections must be carried out in accordance with the legislation on official controls.

Specific hygiene regulations are laid down with the aim of minimizing the possibility of contamination of the meat produced, covering:

  • transportation of birds to the slaughterhouse.
  • construction, design, and equipment of slaughterhouses and cutting plants.
  • slaughter processes.
  • cutting and boning work.
  • poultry reared for the purpose of producing foie gras.

These provisions apply to the meat of farm birds, rabbits and hares

Meat of farm game.

Unless the authority considers it appropriate, the meat of farm game coming from ungulates animals must be produced and marketed under conditions for the meat of domestic ungulates. The provisions relating to poultry meat apply to the production and marketing of meat from ratites (flightless birds).

In the interest of animal welfare, the authority may in certain circumstances authorize the slaughter farm game at the place of origin instead of in an approved establishment.

Wild game meat specific hygiene provisions cover

  • training of hunters in health and hygiene.
  • killing, evisceration, and transportation of wild game to an approved establishment.
  • game handling establishment.
  • minced meat preparations, mechanically separated meat.

They do not apply to the production or marketing of minced meat intended for the processing industry which is subject to the requirements for fresh meat.

Specific hygiene rules cover:

  • equipment and approval of production establishments
  • raw materials used or prohibited in the production of minced meat
  • production, conservation, and use of minced meat preparations,
  • products obtained from minced meat and mechanically separated meat.
  • product labelling.

Live bivalve molluscs.

Live molluscs harvested from the wild and intended for human consumption must apply with health standards applicable to all stages of the production chain.

  • production of live bivalve molluscs.
  • types of production area.
  • harvesting of molluscs and transport to a dispatch or verification center, relaying area, or processing plant.
  • relaying of molluscs in approved areas under optimal conditions of traceability and purification.
  • essential equipment and hygiene conditions in dispatch and purification centers.
  • health standards applicable to live bivalve molluscs: freshness and viability, microbiological criteria; evaluation of the presence of marine biotoxins and harmful substances;
  • health marking, wrapping, labeling, storage, and transport of live bivalve molluscs.

Fishery products of fish caught in their natural environment are subject to specific hygiene requirements. They include provisions in relation to

  • equipment and facilities on fishing vehicles, factory vessels, and freezer vehicles.
  • areas for receiving product taken on board, work and storage areas, refrigeration, freezing installations, pumping of waste and disinfection.
  • hygiene on board fishing vessels, factories, and freezer vessels. Cleanliness, protection from contamination, washing with water and cold treatment.
  • conditions of hygiene during and after landing of fishery products; protection against any form of contamination, equipment used, auction and wholesale markets.
  • fresh and frozen products, mechanically separated white flesh and/or parasites harmful to human health and crustaceans and molluscs.
  • processed fishery products.
  • health standards applicable to fishery products.
  • wrapping, packaging, storage, and transportation of fishery products.

Raw milk and milk products.

There are specific health requirements as regards raw milk and colostrum. They must come from females of the species, cows, buffalos, ewes, goats, others, which are in good general state of health and must not show any symptoms of infectious disease communicable to human diseases through milk or colostrum They must not be  suffering from certain infections or conditions. Animals must not have any other wound likely to affect the milk or colostrum.

Subject to further more specific provisions, raw milk must comply with microbiological criteria and standards for plate count and somatic cell count.

Milking, collection, and transportation of raw milk and colostrum must comply with specified hygiene rules in order to avoid contamination. Hygiene requirements also apply to persons involved, premises and equipment and utensils used in production.

The legislation sets out general health requirements for heat-treated drinking milk and other milking products They deal in particular with the preparation of pasteurized milk and ultra-high temperature milk.

Wrapping and packaging must be designed to protect milk and milk products from the harmful effects of external origin. Labelling must clearly show the characteristics of the product, including where appropriate, the terms raw milk, made with raw milk, colostrum or colostrums based etc.

Egg products.

At the producer’s premises, intermediary places and the place of sale to the consumer, eggs must be kept clean, dry, free of extraneous odour, protected from shocks and direct sunlight. They must be stored and transported at an optimal temperature for conservation. They must be delivered to the consumer within 21 days of laying.

The hygiene rules governing eggs and egg products cover:

  • availability of suitable rooms within approved production establishments in order to separate egg products from manufacturing operations.
  • raw materials used in egg products,
  • conditions for using egg shells and liquid egg.
  • manufacture of egg products in such a way as to avoid contamination during production and storage.
  • analytical specifications for various residues and acids.
  • labelling and identification.

There are also specific schemes with requirements in respect of the following:

  • Frogs legs and snails.
  • Rendered animal fats.
  • Treated stomachs, bladders, and intestines.
  • Collagen

Veterinary Inspection I

An official veterinarian must be appointed and authorized by the competent authority. They must have professional qualifications recognized by passing an aptitude test covering all the subjects in which they are competent.

The competent authority  must audit the permanent application of good hygiene practice including

  • the maintenance of plant, structure, and equipment,
  • plant hygiene,
  • staff hygiene and training

Audit tests and procedures based on HACCP must include in particular,

  • compliance byproducts with microbiological criteria,
  • the absence of excessive quantities of prohibited substances,
  • the absence of contaminated chemical residues,
  • the absence of physical hazards, pathophysiological abnormalities or changes.

The inspection tasks of the official veterinarian include the following:

  • food chain information including health data concerning animals which have been sent or will be sent for slaughter.
  • Antemortem inspections within 24 hours of arrival at slaughterhouses and less than 24 hours before slaughter. The official veterinarian verifies the existence of any sign indicating that the welfare of animals has been compromised or any sign of any condition that might adversely affect human health or animal health.
  • Animal welfare during transport and slaughter.
  • Postmortem inspections. Carcasses and offal of slaughtered animals are subjected to visual inspection and mandatory incision with a view to the diagnosis or detection of animal disease or other factors rendering meat unsafe; the official veterinarian may conduct additional examination and take samples.
  • Specified risk material to be sampled, separated, and where appropriate marked.

The official veterinarian takes samples to detect the possible presence of zoonosis, TSE, and diseases and unauthorized substances.

After completion of postmortem, meat fit for consumption must be health marked in ink or by hot branding. The mark is oval, legible, indelible, and readily visible to the controlling authorities showing the name of the establishment. The nature and content of the marking must follow specific requirements depending on the type of meat.

The results of the inspection must be recorded in writing and incorporated in the relevant database. Where a problem is identified, it must be communicated to the operator of the meat establishment, the competent authority, and the persons responsible for supervising the holding. The official veterinarian must take necessary measures and precautions to prevent the spreading of infectious agents.

Where controls reveal discrepancies, deficiencies, or irregularities, appropriate measures must be taken. This includes decisions regarding food chain information.

Animals are not accepted for slaughter for human consumption where

  • they come from a region subject to movement
  • rules on the use of veterinary medical products have not been complied with.
  • there is a risk to human health or animal health.

When the information on the animal provided does not correspond with the true position, the authority may take action against the operator, such as extra controls at the operator’s expense.

Veterinary Inspection II

There is provision for health marking for stock cattle,  large farm animals, and wild game.When the animal’s identity is not ascertainable, it must be killed separately and declared unfit for human consumption. This also applies to animals presenting a transmittable pathological disease risk.They must undergo antemortem examination. The veterinary official supervises slaughter of animals in the context of specific disease eradication schemes.

The official veterinarian must ensure the rules concerning welfare during transport and slaughter are complied with and if necessary take corrective measures.

All meat which may constitute a danger to human health shall be declared unfit for human consumption. This includes

  • meat from animals which have not undergone antemortem inspection,
  • meat from animals whose offal has not undergone postmortem inspection,
  • meat from animals which are dead before slaughter, stillborn, unborn, or slaughtered under the age of 7 days,
  • meat from animals affected by notifiable diseases,
  • if not in conformity with the biological and radioactivity criteria,
  • meat containing specified risk materials, chemical residues, or veterinary medicinal products in excess of permitted limits.

The veterinarian may impose requirements concerning the use of meat derived from animals having undergone emergency slaughter outside the slaughterhouse.

Qualifications and Competence of Inspectors

States must guarantee official supervision in meat establishments. The nature and intensity of the officials supervision is based on regular assessment of the risks to human and animal health and animal welfare.

At least one official veterinarian should be present at both the antemortem and post-mortem inspections. Flexibility may be allowed in the case of some establishments slaughtering and processing game.

In order to carry out official inspections, a number of professional qualifications are required. The veterinarian must pass a test organized by the competent authority confirming knowledge in all areas relating to their work including

  • EU and national legislation,
  • good hygiene and farming practices,
  • HACC principles.

Each veterinarian must have worked 200 practical hours of training before being allowed to work by themselves.

When carrying out inspections, the official veterinarian may be assisted by official auxiliaries based on his authority. Auxiliaries must have received training at least 500 hours of theoretical training and 400 hours of practical training and must be approved by an aptitude test covering subjects in which they are competent.

Other Inspections and Controls

States may authorize the staff of poultry and rabbit slaughterhouses to carry out certain inspections normally carried out by official auxiliaries. The staff in question must have received specific training.

There are specific official controls on fishery products. They must be carried out at the time of landing or before the first sale at an auction or wholesale market. This includes

  • miscellaneous testing,
  • microbiological tests,
  • tests for contaminants,
  • parasite screening,
  • checks for biotoxins.

Fishery products must  be declared unfit for human consumption if anything reveals the presence of excessive quantities of substances dangerous to human health.

In addition to common control requirements, specific controls exist in relation to milk and dairy products. This includes

  • inspection of holdings.
  • animals must undergo regular veterinary inspections to ensure compliance with health requirements for raw milk.

The authorities must organize control schemes to ensure compliance with the control of raw milk and collection. Where the raw milk fails to meet mandatory food safety criteria, the authority may suspend the delivery of milk in question.

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