Marketing local products:
Short and long distribution channels
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Technical Data Sheets
Technical Data Sheet n°1
Health guarantees in the agribusiness sector -
a brief overview of the latest Community
regulations and self-regulation
Food legislation is one of the sectors that has been most heavily
influenced by Community law, with more than four hundred regulatory
provisions (regulations, directives, etc.) having been promulgated
to harmonise the food legislation of individual Member States and to
allow the free movement of food products within the Community
As a result of European Commission proposals, Community health
legislation in the agribusiness sector will change in the year 2000.
The following text is meant to serve only as a guide, even though a
number of the elements contained in it are not expected to change.
The changes will involve both the “vertical” standards that govern
each product or specific sector and the “horizontal” standards that
govern general aspects common to all products, such as labelling or
establishing uniform criteria for carrying out official controls.
The numerous Community provisions include two directives on official
food controls (Directive 89/397 of 14.06.89 and directive 93/99/EEC
of 29.10.93), as well as the directive on food hygiene (Directive
93/43/EEC of 14.06.93), which are due to have a more far-reaching
impact on the activities of the prevention departments of the
competent supervisory bodies.
The role entrusted to producers in the general control system is the
most novel element of these directives.
A typical feature of the Community regulations is to increase the
responsibilities of company managers, based on the fact that
appropriate and ongoing measures to eliminate or reduce hazards can
be guaranteed only by the businesses themselves internally.
According to this rationale, the producer is no longer subject only
to constraints and obligations, but also plays an active role in,
and has direct responsibility for, the adoption of measures to
ensure food health safety. Indeed he is obliged to control the
entire processing procedure, to identify the phases critical to food
safety and to adopt appropriate monitoring and control measures, in
line with the principles of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control
Point system (H.A.C.C.P.).
For today’s producers “process control” essentially means preserving
the integrity and guaranteeing the hygiene of its food products.
In other words, they must not only control the infamous “invariable
factors” (criteria imposed by the laboratories), but also the
“variable factors” (management) as well as pay special attention to
safety and hygiene, which are both subject to controls on the basis
of specific criteria.
In today’s society, nutrition is indeed playing an increasingly
strategic role that hinges on two major elements:
- product quality;
- consumer safety.
Self-regulation is now an essential requirement for obtaining
Community recognition, and European inspectors control the existence
and conformity of self-regulation procedures in the food industry.
Self-regulation relies on the principle of an “obligation to guard
against health hazards”. Production costs must also include the
hygiene guarantees provided by food companies.
Guaranteeing health quality entails controlling the entire
production cycle, the chemical, physical and bacteriological aspects
of raw materials and of semi-finished products, production methods,
storage, transport and, last but by no means least, product control.
Periodic controls and analyses must be carried out to verify the
For food companies, guaranteeing the safety of food products and
their compliance with health requirements is the best guarantee of
hygiene and safety for consumers.
For producers, this means:
- adapting production structures and phases to comply with the
- training their personnel properly;
- basing their business on sound control methods.
Official controls are the responsibility of the Health Ministry, but
if self-regulation is properly managed, such official controls will
become more targeted, fewer in number and less costly.
Community Directive 93/43 on food hygiene and self-regulation
Community Directive 93/43 on food hygiene stipulates that traders
must adopt specific self-regulation procedures that involve
identifying the critical points in their business activities.
The objective is therefore to actively involve business managers in
determining and maintaining optimum health and hygiene conditions.
The method for introducing self-regulation is called H.A.C.C.P.
(Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point).
The H.A.C.C.P. system is applied using a logical sequence of 12
different phases, hinging on seven basic principles.
Developing the system involves:
- analysing potential food hazards;
- identifying any points where there is a potential food hazard;
- adopting decisions with regard to any critical points that
have been identified which are liable to jeopardise food safety;
- identifying and applying procedures to control and monitor
these specific critical points;
- periodically re-examining and, should the food company’s
activities change, analysing any food hazards, critical points and
control and monitoring procedures.