Hygiene Package

Presentation and role of ANSES

The reform of the European regulations on food hygiene, which came into force on 1 January 2006, simplified and harmonised the legislation applicable in the European Union. This set of regulations, known as the “Hygiene Package”, concerns the entire food chain from primary production (both animal and plant) to the consumer and including the food industry, catering trades, transport and distribution ("from farm to fork"). Its aim is to harmonise the level of food safety by involving all stakeholders in the food chain, subjecting them to the same requirements, by formalising the responsibility of professionals, and by optimising controls by the health authorities.

The Agency made a major contribution as a scientific assessor to the development of this regulatory reform and is heavily involved in its implementation. Itoperates at several levels on this issue including:

Updating national regulations

The entry into force of the Hygiene Package led to the French regulations being reshaped. In particular, the Agency was responsible for assessing national provisions that complement or override those of the Hygiene Package regulations (e.g. concerning traditional products). The Agency was also asked to help update sanitary inspection procedures in slaughterhouses.

Guides to good hygiene practice

The use of guides to good hygiene practice (GGHP) is strongly encouraged by the Hygiene Package regulations. Aguide to good hygiene practices and application of HACCP principles is a reference document designed by professional bodies for all the professionals in their respective sectors. The guides are designed to help professionals become proficient in food safety and comply with their regulatory obligations.

The Agency is involved, at the national level, in the process of validating these guides by assessing their scientific aspects. In particular, the Agency assesses the suitability of the biological, physical and chemical hazard analyses proposed by the professionals. To assist professionals in the drafting of guides, the Agency produces a number of documents including data sheets on foodborne microbial hazards.

The ANSES Laboratories also play an important role through their research work and through scientific support provided to the government for the validation of industrial processes. For example, the Maisons-Alfort Laboratory for Food Safety has provided scientific and technical support with protocols for thawing and food storage temperatures that could be added to the guides at a later stage.

Microbiological criteria

Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 is an implementing text of the "Hygiene Package". It distinguishes between food safety criteria that define "the acceptability of a product or a batch of foodstuff applicable to products placed on the market" and process hygiene criteria indicating "the acceptable functioning of a production process". Failure to comply with a process hygiene criterion leads to corrective measures intended to maintain the hygiene of the process.

In 2005, the Agency focused on the food safety criteria. In 2006, the Agency began its expert appraisal on microbial flora that can be used as indicators of process hygiene. This work resulted in the publication of two Opinions:

The Agency subsequently issued an internal request to the Expert Committee on "Microbiology" on the drafting of recommendations for the development of microbiological criteria for process hygiene. This third expertise publication presents the principles and methodology of establishing indicator criteria for process hygiene and is designed to assist operators in the selection and use of these criteria.