A brief history of food law. The legal basis of food law in the UK and the continuing role of EU law that has now become domestic.


The Food Safety Act 1990 used to be the primary source of domestic food law in the UK while general food law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 was the primary source within the EU. Following Brexit, both are now an equal part of domestic law, although the latter will continue to develop as a primary source of EU food law for the remaining 27 Member States.

The general objectives of food law are set out in Article 5 of Regulation (EC) 178/2002:

Food law shall pursue one or more of the general objectives of a high level of protection of human life and health and the protection of consumers' interests, including fair practices in food trade, taking account of, where appropriate, the protection of animal health and welfare, plant health and the environment.

The principles of transparency are two-fold: open and transparent public consultation and the fullest possible public information.

General food trade obligations relate to food and feed imported and exported and international standards.

The basic requirements are set out in Article 11 of general food law Regulation (EC) 178/2002 which provides:

Food and feed imported into Great Britain for placing on the market within Great Britain must comply with the relevant requirements of food law or conditions recognised by Great Britain to be at least equivalent thereto or, where a specific agreement exists between the United Kingdom and an exporting country, with requirements contained therein.

The general food law requirements related to food and feed safety, presentation, labelling and advertising, business operator responsibilities and traceability.

Article 14 of Regulation (EC) 178/2002 provides that “(f)ood shall not be placed on the market if it is unsafe” and that food is unsafe if it is ‘injurious to health’ or ‘unfit for human consumption'.  

Responsibilities for food rest with both food and feed business operators. The responsibilities of a food business operator are set out in Article 19 of Regulation (EC) 178/2002.

The statutes cited in the Artisan Food Law Library are listed here in chronological order.

The secondary legislation cited in the Artisan Food Law Library is listed in chronological order.