Safe food and animal feed


Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 – general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and procedures for food safety


The Regulation is designed to guarantee the quality of food, whether for human or animal consumption.


It strengthens the rules on the safety of food and feed in the EU. It also sets up the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which provides support for the scientific testing and evaluation of food and feed.

The Regulation does not cover primary production for private domestic use or the handling of food at home.


No foods dangerous to health or unfit for consumption may be put on sale. The following factors are taken into account:

the normal conditions under which food is used by the consumer;

information provided to the consumer;

the effect on health, in the short and long term;

cumulative toxic effects;

specific sensitivities of certain consumer groups, for example children.

If any unsafe food or feed is part of a batch it is assumed that the whole batch is unsafe.

Food legislation applies at all stages of the food chain, from production, processing, transport and distribution to supply. In particular food businesses must:

guarantee the traceability of food, feed and food-producing animals at all stages of production and distribution,

immediately withdraw food or feed from the market, or recall products already supplied, if these are considered to be harmful to health,

inform the appropriate authorities, and consumers where necessary.

The Authority provides scientific and technical support to the European Commission and EU countries in all areas impacting on food safety. It is also responsible for coordinating risk assessments, identifying emerging risks and advising on crisis management.

Where risk is identified following a health risk analysis, EU countries and the Commission may adopt provisional precautionary measures consistent with a high level of health protection.

The rapid alert system (RASFF) involving EU countries, the Commission and the Authority, provides for information sharing on:

measures to restrict the circulation of food, or its withdrawal from the market;

action taken to control the use of food;

the rejection of a batch of imported food.

This information must also be made available to the general public where appropriate.

Where food or feed presents a serious and uncontainable risk to health or the environment, the Commission's emergency protective measures can include suspending trade in or imports of the product. EU countries may take similar measures if the Commission fails to take action.

Together with the Authority and EU countries, the Commission must draw up a general crisis management plan to cover situations where the standard emergency protective measures are insufficient. Where such a case is identified the Commission must immediately set up a crisis unit to identify the options for protecting human health.

The EU also aims to protect consumers against fraudulent or deceptive practices in the food trade, such as food adulteration, and provide a basis for consumers to make informed choices about food.


It entered into force on 21 February 2002.


Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety (OJ L 031, 1.2.2002, pp. 1–24)

The successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Regulation (EC) No 2230/2004 of 23 December 2004 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 with regard to the network of organisations operating in the fields within the European Food Safety Authority's mission (OJ L 379, 24.12.2004, pp. 64–67)

Commission Decision 2004/478/EC of 29 April 2004 concerning the adoption of a general plan for food/feed crisis management (OJ L 212, 12.6.2004, pp.60–68)

Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption (OJ L 226, 25.6.2004, pp. 83–127). See consolidated version.

last update 25.11.2015