General Food Law

Policy Position

FDF welcomed in principle the development of EU General Food Law Regulation 178/2002, to provide an “umbrella” for EU food law. In FDF’s view, the GFL Regulation has achieved its objectives of ensuring a high level of health protection and the effective functioning of the internal market. However, FDF does have concerns about some the secondary legislation introduced at a national level which is not based on risk and has consequently resulted in a barrier to trade.



EC Regulation (No.) 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law (and establishing EFSA) is directly applicable to Member States. UK implementation has introduced some new enforcement powers and penalties.

The Regulation lays down the definitions, principles and obligations covering all stages of food and feed production; provides a basic framework for the development of more detailed and sector specific legislation; and provides the legal basis for the EFSA. Importantly, it establishes the basic principle that the primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with food law rests with the food business.

The Commission published Guidance (pdf, 251kb) on implementation of the key requirements, including the import and export of food and feed; compliance with food safety requirements; traceability; and product recall/withdrawal and notification. It seeks to distinguish between what businesses need to do to comply with the legal requirements and what they can do by way of best practice. The Commission indicated that it would review this guidance and FSA consulted formally (in July 2005) to inform its input to this process. As yet, a review has not been undertaken.

The Commission also published a leaflet on the key obligations of food and feed business operators under EU food safety legislation, which summarises the obligations as follows:

Key obligations of food and feed business operators

  • Safety: Operators shall not place unsafe food or feed on the market.
  • Responsibility: Operators are responsible for the safety of the food and feed which they produce, transport, store or sell.
  • Traceability: Operators shall be able to rapidly identify the immediate supplier and immediate recipient of the product: ie one up and one down traceability.
  • Transparency: Operators shall immediately inform the competent authorities (in the UK, FSA and relevant enforcement authority) if they have reason to believe that their food or feed is not safe.
  • Emergency: Operators shall immediately withdraw food or feed from the market if they
  • Prevention: Operators shall identify and regularly review the critical points in their processes and ensure that controls are applied at those points: HACCP.
  • Co-operation: Operators shall co-operate with the competent authorities in actions taken to reduce risks.

FSA has also published Guidance Notes on Food Safety, Traceability, Product Withdrawal and Recall

As part of its ‘Smart Regulation’ policy, the Commission has initiated a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). In 2014, the Commission launched a fitness check on the General Food Law Regulation to analyse the effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value of the legislative framework introduced by the GFL Regulation.


Last reviewed: 02 May 2019