by European Commission
Manuscript completed in January 2000
The European Union and food quality
Over the last few decades, the public has become increasingly concerned about food safety and quality. Consumers want to be sure that the food they buy in supermarkets or eat in restaurants is safe, nutritious and wholesome, as well as being produced to a certain standard. Events like the outbreak of BSE or ‘mad cow’ disease or the crisis about dioxin in food have increased overall anxiety about food safety. In addition to safety issues, more peo-ple are focusing on the quality of the food they eat. Consumers are demanding the highest possible standards from farmers, food companies and retailers. They are also showing more interest in how and where food is produced, with growing demand for organic produce or meat from animals reared under very high welfare standards.
Addressing consumers’ safety concerns and quality expectations is a major responsibility for the European Union. Over the last 40 years, the EU has developed a comprehensive set of rules, stan-dards and monitoring practices to guarantee that the food we eat is as safe and appetising as possible. The Union is involved in measures at every stage in the food manufacturing process, from the farm to the factory to the fork, to ensure that what we eat is safe and healthy. Some of the tasks are carried out by the industry itself, some by the Member States, and others by the European Commission and the special agencies and bodies it controls. However, the Commission has overall responsibility for ensuring that standards are applied equally across the Union.
The system has developed a great deal in the last 10 years, partly in response to food crises, but also because the EU has created a single market in foodstuffs, meaning that all internal barriers to trade within the EU have been scrapped. As the Union now only has one single frontier for all imports, the EU is responsible for ensuring that foodstuffs from outside the EU are as safe as those produced in the Member States. The Commission also represents the interests of the Union’s consumers in international bodies dealing with trade issues, food standards or health questions such as animal diseases.
This brochure seeks to explain what the Union does at each stage of the process to maintain the highest standards of food safety and quality.
You can download the full brochure as a *.pdf: click here