The Regulation on microbial criteria (Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 on microbiological regulation for foodstuffs, as amended) is addressed to operators and requires food business operators to ensure that foodstuffs comply with the requirements of the Regulation. Although the microbiological requirements of the Regulation are mainly intended for use in own-check, the requirements are also applied to samples from official controls to verify that the requirements for operators are met. However, sampling and analysis of samples are just one of the means of control of ensuring that regulatory requirements are met.
The food safety requirements of the Microbial Criteria Regulation apply to products placed on the market. Instead, process hygiene requirements only apply during the manufacturing process. According to Article 14 of the General Food Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, unsafe foods may not be placed on the market. Furthermore, the Control Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 requires the authority to verify that an operator complies with the requirements of Community law. Therefore, the authority must suspend the placing on the market of food that is unsafe, even if Community legislation does not impose microbiological requirements for that food pathogen combination.
It is highly recommended that the control authority’s sampling is carried out as well-designed projects in order to obtain correct information on food-borne hazards in the food chain. Projects can be either follow-up or control studies. In particular, research on pathogens in food and production environments and equipment is recommended as official authority projects.