Food business operators are held responsible for their products that will be placed on the market. They implement the measures necessary for the safe production of food products and are required to report to the inspection authorities of the General Directorate for Food (DGAL), the branch responsible for food safety of the French Ministry of Agriculture.
To give you a better idea of the breadth of responsibility for food safety in France, here are some figures on the national structure of inspections:
- Over 500,000 farms to inspect
- Over 400,000 processing, distribution and restaurant facilities to inspect.
- 4,000 inspectors in the local services, the departments
- 14,000 sanitary veterinarians approved by the State
- €350 million per year is the total cost of these sanitary inspections
Where do these inspections take place?
The inspections take place at four different points along the path from farm to fork.
- At the production sites, including farms, fisheries and breeding facilities.
- At the processing stage: dairy facilities, slaughterhouses, meat or fish processing plants, animal feed processing plants etc…
- Over the course of the distribution process during transportation, storage, at restaurants and retail stores.
- At the border for both imports and exports.
How are the inspections divided across the agrifood chain?
Over the course of the year, the French Ministry of Agriculture diligently oversees every link of the food chain.
- 75,000 inspections of food establishments for food safety verification.
- 30,000 inspections at the farm level.
- 6,900 inspections on pesticide use on farms or during distribution.
What do the inspection ensure?
- The implementation of appropriate measures to ensure the sanitary quality of the products.
- That all types facilities at every step of the agrifood chain respect the established hygienic conditions (i.e. cleanliness of the animals and cold preservation for temperature sensitive products, etc…)
- That animal and plant-based foodstuffs for both human and animal consumption be tested for any presence of contaminants, banned and/or noxious substances (hormones, residues of veterinary medicine, environmental contaminants, microbiological contaminants – salmonella, listeria, etc…)
- 800,000 of these tests were conducted last year by the DGAL
- 30 national laboratories approved by the Ministry of Agriculture.
What happens in cases of infraction or non-conformity?
Any infractions or non-conformities on the part of the operators can result in sanctions, fines, trials, product recall or destruction,approval suspension or closings.