Food safety requirements
Food manufacturers must make sure that their products are safe and do not make people ill. Companies must have a food safety plan and observe the food safety regulations. The government checks that they comply with these requirements.
In recent years there have been various scandals involving fraudulent food. For instance when a product contains ingredients that it shouldn’t, or is sold as a completely different product. Like horsemeat being sold as beef, or honey bulked out with sugar syrups.
These deceptions mislead consumers. But fraudulent food can also endanger public health because the exact ingredients aren’t clear. It may contain substances that cause an allergic reaction. It is also impossible to know whether or how fraudulent food has been processed: for example, animal products may contain traces of medication that is dangerous for humans.
European food safety regulations
The EU General Food Law contains rules on food safety and food quality, which apply in all member states.
Food safety regulations in the Commodities Act
All the rules in the General Food Law have been put in Dutch laws. Food and food products may not endanger the health or safety of consumers. The Commodities Act lays down rules for foods and other products. This includes rules on the hygienic preparation and labelling of foods.
International cooperation on food safety
Besides the General Food Law, EU member states are working to promote food safety through:
- The Codex Alimentarius, an international agreement involving the European Union and 186 countries. All EU food standards and regulations are based on the Codex Alimentarius.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent research institute that advises the European Commission on the risks associated with food safety and animal health.
Regulations on the safety of animal products
The Livestock Act regulates the safety of meat and other animal products. It includes rules on storing and shipping meat.
Food safety monitoring
On behalf of the government, the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) supervises the production, transport and sale of food by manufacturers, businesses and the hospitality industry.
Manufacturers are responsible for producing foods that are safe and reliable. The food sector also has its own internal monitoring systems. Businesses that keep their control systems in good order are inspected less frequently by the NVWA, which can concentrate on companies that do not yet meet all the requirements.
Food safety plan for businesses (HACCP)
Businesses involved with food must meet national safety and hygiene requirements in order to safeguard consumer health. They are required by law to formulate a food safety plan in line with the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. This describes any hazards that may occur in their operations, and what the business can do to prevent problems. For example, they can take measures concerning:
- the personal hygiene of staff
- hygiene during the transportation of raw materials (such as milk containers)
- the way food is treated or processed (such as using clean machines to cut bread)
- storage in clean and dark facilities.
Reporting unsafe food products
It’s possible for traces of undesirable substances like toxic moulds or pesticide residues to occur in food for animal or human consumption. Harmful bacteria – like listeria – can also contaminate foods during the manufacturing process. It can be harmful for human health when these substances exceed safety limits. Businesses must inform the NVWA if they discover traces of harmful substances in their products.
Tracing unsafe food products
Food manufacturers must be able to trace the origin of the ingredients they use and record the destination of their products. If necessary, they can recall an unsafe product and destroy it.
Ministries responsible for food safety
Healthy food and food safety are the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible, among other things, for rules on hygiene and meat inspections in slaughterhouses, and on meat storage. It also lays down rules on livestock farming, including animal health and welfare, and the quality and safety of animal feed.