Food safety, traceability, product withdraw and recall: General Food Law Regulation guidance for food businesses

Last updated:
20 July 2007
Guidance Notes on Articles 14, 16, 18 and 19 of the General Food Law Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002, laying down general principles and requirements of food law and food safety procedures, and established the European Food Safety Authority.

The regulation provides a framework for food and feed law in the EC and imposes both on Member States and on food and feed business operators. It applies to all stages of production, processing and distribution of food and feed, but does not apply to primary production for private domestic use or to the domestic preparation, handling or storage of food for private domestic consumption. The principal aim of the regulation is to protect public health and consumers’ interests in relation to food.

New Food Standards Agency (FSA) Guidance Notes on compliance with Articles 14, 16, 18 and 19 of the General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 have been developed, covering food safety, traceability and the need to notify, withdraw and/or recall products not conforming with the food safety requirements applying under the regulation. Separate guidance is also being produced on the provisions in the regulation on animal feed.

This guidance has been produced with the aim of providing informal non-statutory advice. It should be read in conjunction with the regulation itself and the British legislation which followed – the Food Safety Act 1990 (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (No. 2990) and the General Food Regulations 2004 (No. 3279).

The EC guidance on the regulation was issued on 20 January 2005. Agency guidance taking account of the EC Guidance was issued on 10 March 2005.

The Agency consulted in July 2005 on how well the EC guidance had been working, to inform a review of the guidance by the European Commission.

The reaction from business was that following the EC guidance was resulting in disproportionate costs to the food industry. The EC guidance classifies traceability information in two categories, the first to meet the legal requirements and the second to be followed as best practice. Responses from food businesses to the consultation exercise indicated that following such best practice guidance could result in additional costs. The new FSA guidance notes have been developed to address this.

Compared with the EC guidance, these FSA guidance notes:

  • give a greater discretion to food businesses over time requirements for keeping traceability records
  • change the need for immediate production of traceability records in certain cases to a need to produce these within 'a short timescale'
  • concentrate on the requirements of the legislation and providing minimal advice on good practice

The Agency view is that the FSA guidance notes are more appropriate for food businesses in the UK. This approach has been agreed with the European Commission.