Food regulations

The aim of the single European market is to allow the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.

Food regulations
Food regulations

As far as the free movement of goods is concerned, the EU adopts two approaches: the harmonization of the various “product regulations” or their mutual recognition.

On the subject of food safety, the EU has introduced numerous harmonization measures to guarantee both the free movement of products, and consumer protection. As the regulations concerned do not always match Swiss specifications, exporters sometimes need to adapt their products in line with European requirements.

  • Bilateral agreements govern exports to the EU. Exporters must inquire in all cases about any additional requirements in force, by approaching the country of import or the importer.
  • For the export of everyday objects or of food products of non-animal origin, the export certificates published on the FSVO website are often sufficient.
  • An official export certificate is generally necessary to export animals. A commercial document is required for the export of animal products.
  • The export of certain animal by-products requires authorization by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).

For more information, please see the “export” chart  (available in french, german of italian) published by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).

EU dossiers on food safety
The EU provides comprehensive information on food safety on its website. Below is a short description of what the individual dossiers contain along with details of the relevant links. Please feel free to start with a general Summary of European legislation on food safety. If you have any questions, your ExportHelp and your EEN contacts will be happy to help.

Labelling, packaging and advertising
On 25 October 2011, the European Parliament and Council adopted Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 on consumer information on food (hereinafter “the INCO Regulation”). This regulation amends the provisions governing the labelling of foodstuffs in the Union in order to allow the consumer to make an informed decision and use the food in complete safety, whilst guaranteeing the free movement of food legally produced and marketed.

This regulation has been amended several times. A non-binding consolidated version is available HERE for easier reading.

The INCO Regulation introduces significant changes

At Community level

  • better legibility of information (minimum font size for mandatory information);
  • harmonized, clearer presentation of allergens in the list of ingredients for pre-wrapped foodstuffs (highlighted by the size of characters, the style or the background color);
  • mandatory indications relating to allergens for non-pre-wrapped foodstuffs, including in restaurants and cafés;
  • the obligation to make certain nutritional information appear on the majority of processed foodstuffs;
  • mandatory indication of origin for pig, sheep and goat meat and for fresh poultry meat;
  • identical labelling requirements for online sales, distance sales and in-store sales;
  • a list of manufactured nanomaterials appearing among the ingredients;
  • specific information concerning the plant origin of refined oils and fats;
  • strengthening of rules aimed at the prevention of misleading practices;
  • indication of replacement ingredients for food substitutes;
  •  clear indications of “reconstituted meat” or “reconstituted fish”; and clear signaling of defrosted products.

At national level
Member States may not adopt or retain specific national measures on the subjects expressly harmonized by this Regulation unless authorized to do so by European legislation. However, they may adopt national measures on non-harmonized subjects provided that they do not obstruct or restrict the free movement of goods.

Member States may adopt measures requiring additional mandatory indications for certain categories of foodstuffs justified by at least one of the following reasons: the protection of public health; that of consumers, the suppression of fraud or protection of industrial and commercial property, indications of provenance or registered designations of origin (AOC) and the suppression of unfair competition.

Finally, the indication of the presence of allergens for food proposed for sale to the end consumer and bodies without being pre-wrapped, or for food wrapped on the sale premises at the request of the consumer or pre-wrapped with a view to their immediate sale becomes mandatory, whilst that of the name under which the product is sold remains so.

Date of application and transitory measures:
The regulation entered into force on 13 December 2014, with the exception of the introduction of the nutritional declaration which will be mandatory from 13 December 2016 and the particular requirement relating to the designation of “minced meat” which applies from 1 January 2014.

Foodstuffs marketed or labelled prior to 13 December 2014 that do not comply with the requirements of this Regulation may be traded until stocks are exhausted. The same applies to:

  • Foodstuffs marketed or labelled prior to 13 December 2016 that do not comply with the requirements on the nutrition declaration;
  • Foodstuffs marketed or labelled before 1 January 2014 that do not comply with the requirements established in Appendix VI, part B (name of foodstuff and particular indications, which come with it, in this case, particular requirements relating to the designation of minced meat).

Food hygiene
Food companies must adhere to the specific food hygiene regulations during the preparation, processing, production, packaging, storage, transport, distribution, trading and provision of food intended for sale or supply. They must ensure that the HACCP concept (Hazard Analyses and Critical Control Points) is applied (available in FR DE or IT).

This dossier also contains regulations on the production and circulation of animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, milk etc.

Maximum limits for toxins (contaminants)
No foodstuff containing a contaminant which exceeds admissible toxicological limits can be put into circulation within the EU. With this in mind, maximum content limits have been set for individual substances.

This dossier also contains regulations for objects and materials which come into contact with foodstuffs (e.g. plastics, ceramics).

Prior to any export, foodstuffs must first comply with Swiss legislation (available in FR DE or IT).



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