The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed of the European Union

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Authors: Enikő Dorogházi, Béla Maczák, László Mészáros


1. Summary


The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Union has been ensuring an efficient flow of information among the authorities of the European states since 1979, in order to protect the population from risky foods and feeds. Part of the information on issues reported in the system are not only available to the authorities, but can be utilized by all interested parties in the field of food safety. Experience has shown that, in addition to authorities, the information is monitored and data are analyzed by manufacturers and distributors, laboratories, consulting firms, NGOs, universities and media professionals. In recent years, rapid, targeted information of the population has been emphasized more and more. This article provides general information about RASFF, starting with the most important events in its history from its creation to today, then the EU and domestic legal background of its operation is outlined, followed by the presentation of the institutions of its network, and the method of information flow. It also describes where and in what form can public data managed by the system can be accessed, and provides guidance for their interpretation. Finally, the development over time of the alerts managed by the system is illustrated.


2.       Historical background


The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Union has been operating since 1979. In 1978, oranges contaminated with mercury, harmful to human health, were first found in Maastricht, in the Netherlands, and then in the Federal Republic of Germany. The incident was committed by a Palestinian organization, to hurt Israel’s citrus fruit export.

The case has triggered concern among the countries involved – how to handle more efficiently food safety crisis situations that require rapid response and the cooperation of several member states. In response, the food safety alert system was established in 1979 by nine member states of the European Economic Community (EEC), starting its operation in the form of a flexible gentlemen’s agreement to protect human health.


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