Annexes I and II of Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 lay down the general hygiene provisions that food business operators must comply with to ensure food safety throughout the food chain. The European Commission is empowered to update and adapt those Annexes, taking into account, among others, scientific advice (article 13). On this basis, the European Commission recently initiated a revision of the Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 to include new safety provisions related to the prevention of the presence of allergens in food, redistribution of food, and food safety culture concept.
Cross-contamination and food allergies
Even though food allergies affect a relatively small proportion of the population, an allergic reaction can be severe, even fatal. 14 substances causing allergies or intolerances are listed in Annex II of Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on food information to consumers and must be labelled on foodstuffs. The proposed revision of the Food Hygiene Regulation introduces requirements to prevent or limit the presence of those substances in equipment, conveyances and/or containers used for the harvesting, and in the transport or storage of foodstuffs in order to improve food safety in the EU and bring EU standards into line with the code of practice on food allergen management, which is expected to be adopted in October 2020 by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Redistribution of food
Reducing food waste is one of the aims of the Farm to Fork Strategy adopted by the Commission last spring. Food donation is one of the means to achieve this goal, but it presents several new food safety challenges. The proposed revision notes that food business operators are responsible for ensuring the safety of food under their control and provide minimum elements to be taken into account to ensure that food intended to be redistributed is not injurious to health and is fit for human consumption. In this context, food for which a ‘use by’ date is applied in accordance with article 24 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 will only be allowed to be redistributed before the expiry date, while food bearing a date of minimum durability will be allowed to be redistributed up to and after that date, provided it is not injurious to health and is fit for human consumption.
Food Safety Culture
Finally, the proposed revision of Regulation (EC) 852/2004 introduces the concept of ‘food safety culture” that will have to be established and maintained by food business operators. Food safety culture is supposed to enhance food safety by increasing the awareness and improving behaviour of employees in food establishments.
Feedback received by the Commission generally welcomes this initiative, but also reflects the belief that the proposed changes remain vague and subject to different interpretations. Commission adoption is planned for third quarter 2020.