In all Member States and many third countries, the overarching principles concerning food safety and consumer protection are established in national legislation. However, at EU level, food legislation has evolved without some of these basic principles having been established in an overarching legal instrument.
On the 28th of January 2002 the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EC)178/2002 laying down the General Principles and requirements of Food Law.
The aim of the General Food Law Regulation is to provide a framework to ensure a coherent approach in the development of food legislation. At the same time, it provides the general framework for those areas not covered by specific harmonised rules but where the functioning of the Internal Market is ensured by mutual recognition.
It lays down definitions, principles and obligations covering all stages of food/feed production and distribution.
In October 2010, the Commission initiated the ‘fitness check’ exercise which aims to review an entire body of legislation in a certain policy area with the purpose of identifying excessive burdens, overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies and/or obsolete measures.
The food chain was identified as one of four pilot projects. This fitness check provides the groundwork for the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) which was introduced at the end of 2012. It serves as both an overall assessment by establishing the state of play and, at the same time, as initial mapping exercise outlining the next steps.
Food chain chosen for its:
- Socio-economic importance: Role of the Food sector in Europe
- Extensive legislative EU framework: One of the most EU-level harmonized sectors
The fitness check culminated in publication of Staff Working Document "Fitness Check of the Food Chain"