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Effective national food control systems are essential to protect the health and safety of domestic consumers. They are also critical in enabling countries to assure the safety and quality of their foods entering international trade and to ensure that imported foods conform to national requirements. The new global environment for food trade places considerable obligations on both importing and exporting countries to strengthen their food control systems and to implement and enforce risk-based food control strategies.

Consumers are taking unprecedented interest in the way food is produced, processed and marketed, and are increasingly calling for their Governments to accept greater responsibility for food safety and consumer protection.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have a strong interest in promoting national food control systems that are based upon scientific principles and guidelines, and which address all sectors of the food chain. This is particularly important for developing countries as they seek to achieve improved food safety, quality and nutrition, but will require a high level of political and policy commitment.

In many countries, effective food control is undermined by the existence of fragmented legislation, multiple jurisdictions, and weaknesses in surveillance, monitoring and enforcement. These guidelines seek to provide advice to national authorities on strategies to strengthen food control systems to protect public health, prevent fraud and deception, avoid food adulteration and facilitate trade. They will enable authorities to choose the most suitable options for their food control systems in terms of legislation, infrastructure and enforcement mechanisms. The document delineates the overarching principles of food control systems, and provides examples of possible infrastructures and approaches for national systems.

The target users of these Guidelines are national authorities concerned with ensuring food safety and quality in the interests of public health and consumer protection. The Guidelines will also be of assistance to a range of other stakeholders including consumer groups, industry and trade organizations, farmer groups and any other groups or associations that influence national policy in this area.

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