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Official Controls in the agri-food chain

What are Official Controls?

Official controls along the agri-food chain are currently in force to ensure the safety and integrity of all food products and food ingredients at each stage of the production process. They verify that all those involved in the agri-food chain are operating to the standards laid down in EU legislation and thereby ensure consumer protection. This also means that agri-food businesses continue to have access to the EU’s single market.

Who do these controls apply to?

Official controls apply to the Competent Authorities e.g. the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine responsible for verifying that Food Business Operators are operating to the standards laid down in EU legislation at every step of the food production chain, including primary producers, processors and distributers. The controls also cover the safety and distribution of feedstuffs, animal health and welfare, plant health, animal by-products and organic production, among other areas.

What about imported food and other food related goods?

Official controls as set down in a common set of rules also apply to animals and goods entering the EU. These rules ensure that only animals, goods and foodstuffs that meet the same high standards as our own produce can circulate here.

How and why are Official Controls changing?

A new EU regulation (Regulation (EU) 2017/625) came into effect on 14 December 2019.  This regulation takes a more integrated approach to applying controls which benefits both processors and consumers. The scope of official controls is being extended to include not only food and feed but also to cover areas such as plant health, plant protection products, animal welfare, animal by-products, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), organic production and protected speciality foods.  

What else do they cover?

The revised regulations also address activities, other than official controls, performed by competent authorities. Examples of these “official activities” include verifying the presence of animal diseases or pests and diseases of plants, preventing and containing the spread of such diseases or pests, eradication of such diseases or pests, granting authorisations or approvals and issuing official certificates or official attestations.  

The more detailed provisions of the new official controls are set down in the Official Controls Regulation (EU) 2017/625. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32017R0625&qid=1577983489533&from=EN. And a question and answer information sheet is available on the EU Commission website at https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/oc_qa_ocregulation_20170407_en.pdf