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
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.