New EU food hygiene legislation has been implemented in the UK since 1 January 2006. It affects all businesses involved in the handling of food. This encompasses the whole of the food chain, from fishermen to retailers selling to the final consumer.

The general principles of food law are already established by Regulation 178/2002, which is enforced in the UK by the Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended) and the General Food Regulations 2004.

In July 2000, the European Commission updated and consolidated the 17 existing hygiene directives into one package. This is intended to protect public health by introducing consistency and clarity throughout the food production chain. It sets out basic controls (Regulation 852/2004) on food safety which must be applied by all food businesses including primary producers. Food businesses which are considered to present higher risks to food safety are subject to additional controls (Regulation 853/2004).

The emphasis of the new rules is that all controls should be proportionate to the risk. A hazard analysis scheme (HACCP) is required by all food businesses (except primary production). This allows businesses to consider and control the risks specific to their business and removes the burden of the unnecessary regulation found in the previous legislation.

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