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Food law guidance

There is a lot of legislation which regulates foodstuffs, and a lot of guidance and codes of practice produced by Government and Industry.

Enforcement of regulations on food standards, safety and hygiene is primarily the responsibility of local authorities, but the making of legislation in the UK is the function of central government and Europe​.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the independent government agency responsible, amongst other issues, for enforcement support and advice. FSA also audit enforcement activity with respect to local authority food safety and standards controls.

Legislation covers all parts of the food production and distribution chain, including:

  • production
  • processing
  • packaging and labelling
  • importing
  • distribution
  • retailing and
  • catering

EU Exit

The main general food law

The main pieces of clear-cut UK and European general food legislation are:

  • The Food Safety Act 1990, which provides the framework for food legislation in Great Britain and creates offences in relation to safety, quality and labelling.
  • The General Food Law Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, which creates general principles and requirements of food law across Europe.
  • The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, which provide for the enforcement, including penalties of certain provisions of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 and amended the Food Safety Act 1990 to bring it in line with this regulation.
  • The European Communities Act 1972, under which European food law is transposed into national legislation.

The main European food hygiene law

The following core European Union (EU) food hygiene regulations apply throughout the UK:

A general hygiene guide for businesses

Specific hygiene requirements for food business are explained in more detail in a Food Hygiene: A Guide for Businesses on the FSA website. ​


The FSA works with enforcement officers (primarily in local authorities) to ensure that food and feed law is applied across the entire food chain. The responsibilities of all the enforcement authorities in the UK are set out in the Single Integrated National Control Plan for the UK.

The FSA’s interaction with local authority enforcement officers is set out in the Framework Agreement on Local Authority Enforcement. This document gives a structure to the Agency’s supervision of local authority enforcement work.

The FSA also produce a Food and Feed Law Code of Practice. These codes set out the way local authorities should apply food and feed law, and how they should work with food and feed businesses.

Practice guidance is also provided as a further help to enforcement officers.

The Agency also provides guidance on specific regulations which are relevant to enforcement officers and food businesses to ensure that the law is clear.