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Microbiological Criteria

Foodstuffs of animal and plant origin may present intrinsic hazards, due to microbiological contamination. To protect consumers from microbiological risks in food products, Community legislation sets out numerous hygienic measures (such as HACCP based principles, meat inspections, etc). In particular, microbiological criteria have been laid down for specific foodstuffs. These criteria are applicable at the site of food production as well as in the framework of import control and Intra-Community trade.

Microbiological criteria are tools that can be used in assessing the safety and quality of foods. Due to reasons related to sampling, methodology and uneven distribution of micro-organisms microbiological testing of finished food products done alone is however insufficient to guarantee the safety of a foodstuff tested. The safety of the foodstuffs must principally be ensured by a more preventative approach, such as product and process design and the application of Good Hygiene and Manufacturing Practices (GHP, GMP) and the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles.

International standards for microbiological criteria are discussed in the framework of the Codex Alimentarius

Scientific Advice on matters relating to microbiological risks in food is given by the Scientific Committee on Food and the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health.

Inspection Reports by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) with regard to food hygiene and microbiological risks are publically available.

In order to support the Commission service and the Member States in the management of microbiological risks a network of Community Reference Laboratories has been set up.

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