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Food Law Procedures

The General Food Law Regulation sets out certain procedures relating to food safety. In particular, it provides for 4 measures:

  • the establishment of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF)

  • the establishment of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee)

  • the adoption of emergency measures

  • the establishment of a general plan for crisis management.

Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed

The primary focus of the Union is on maintaining a high level of safety and ensuring quick responses to any threats that do arise. One key tool used to react rapidly to food and feed safety emergencies and incidents is the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). RASFF enables information to be shared efficiently between its members (EU-28 national food safety authorities, Commission, EFSA, ESA, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland). RASFF members have to notify the RASFF if they take such measures as withdrawing or recalling food or feed products from the market in order to protect consumers’ health and if rapid action is required.

Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed

The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee) plays a key role in ensuring that Union measures on food and feed safety, animal health & welfare as well as plant health are practical and effective. It delivers opinions on draft measures that the Commission intends to adopt. For more information you should visit the Comitology Register.

The PAFF Committee is composed by representatives of all Member States and presided by a European Commission representative.

The PAFF Committee's mandate covers the entire food supply chain - from animal health issues on the farm to the product on the consumer's table - helping the EU deal effectively with health risks at every stage of the production chain.

For more information: Committee, General Food Law.

Emergency measures

Where food or feed - including those imported from a non-EU country - presents a serious and uncontainable risk to human health, animal health or the environment, the Commission can put in place protective measures, following an opinion from the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee) and:

  • suspend the placing on the market or use of products originating from the EU;

  • suspend imports of products originating from non-EU countries;

Such action can be initiated by the Commission itself, or be requested by a Member State.

However, if the Commission does not act after having been informed of the existence of a risk, the EU country concerned may take interim protective measures. Within a period of 10 working days, the Commission must refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed with a view to extending, amending or revoking the national measures.

Crisis management

Sometimes, incidents related to food or feed that pose potential serious risks to human health cannot be managed properly within routine procedures. In such cases, the Commission, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the affected Union countries shall follow the general crisis-management plan as adopted by Decision 2004/478/EC.

In the case of a serious risk, the Commission must immediately set up a crisis unit, which EFSA supports by providing scientific and technical support. The crisis unit is responsible for collecting and evaluating all relevant information and identifying the options available for preventing, eliminating or reducing the risk to human health.

Decision 2004/478/EC also lays down management procedures where the risk is potential but could evolve into a serious risk. In this case, a crisis unit will not be set up but adequate provisions will be made to ensure effective management of this type of situation.

In order to allow the application of the general plan for crisis management, Member States are also required to draw up their own contingency plans to apply in emergency situations. According to Article 13 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004, these contingency plans must outline the national administrative authorities to be engaged in crisis management, and their respective powers and responsibilities, as well as the channels and procedures for communication between the relevant actors.