Food legislation aims to protect the lives and health of individuals and the interests of consumers, as well as taking into account the protection of animal health and well-being.
Food legislation is based mainly on risk analysis resulting from available scientific proof. By virtue of the principle of precaution, the State can adopt temporary, appropriate risk management measures when a risk assessment shows that harmful effects on health are likely and there are persistant scientific doubts surrounding the situation.
When a foodstuff or animal food is suspected of being unsafe, public authorities inform the population of the nature of the risk to human or animal health.
General food legislation requirements
No foodstuff is put on the market if it is unsafe and thus detrimental to health and/or unfit for consumption.
In order to determine if a foodstuff is unsafe, normal conditions of use, the information provided to the consumer, the likely immediate or delayed effect on health, cumulative toxic effects and, where appropriate, the particular level of health awareness of a specific group of consumers are all taken into account.
When there is an unsafe foodstuff in a batch or lot, the whole batch is considered to be unsafe.
No animal food is put on the market or fed to animals which produce foodstuffs if it is unsafe. An animal food is unsafe if it has a harmful effect on human or animal health.
A whole batch is considered to be unsafe when it contains an unsafe animal food.
All the way along the food chain, farmers make sure that foodstuffs or animal foods satisfy the food legislation requirements and make sure that these requirements are respected.
The State monitors the application of this legislation, makes sure it is respected by farmers and establishes measures and penalties which are applicable if this legislation is violated.
The traceability of foodstuffs, animal foods, animals which produce foodstuffs and any other substance which is incorporated into foodstuffs is ensured at each stage of manufacturing, processing or distribution. To this end, farmers in the sectors concerned establish systems and procedures which make this traceability possible.
If a farmer believes that an animal food or a foodstuff that they imported, manufactured, processed, produced or distributed is harmful to human or animal health, they immediately take steps to withdraw this product from the market and inform the appropriate authority. If the product could have reached the consumer, the farmer informs consumers and recalls the products which have already been supplied.
Health certification for farmers and establishments
Establishments in which foodstuffs or animal foods are prepared, processed, packaged, preserved, kept or stocked and then put on the market may not operate before certification has been received from the Minister of State. The same certification is required for companies which transport the foodstuffs or animal foods.
For each establishment, one or more farmers who work in the food sector or produce animal food are appointed. Only natural persons who have obtained certification from the Minister of State can be appointed to such a position.