Contaminant control

In-house control and inspections by businesses

The control of contaminants in food is part of normal food control, which is based on the business's in-house control and inspections. A business, such as a food importer or manufacturer, is responsible for the compliance and safety of its products, also with regard to contaminants.

The business must identify and manage the risks associated with contaminants. In practice, this means a careful risk analysis, particularly with regard to food raw materials and processing conditions, as well as demonstrating and ensuring risk management. Appropriate risk management measures may vary at different stages of the food chain.

In primary production, appropriate risk management measures for contaminants include taking into account the special features of the growing environment, good agricultural practices (including fertilisers), careful storage conditions and, where appropriate, chemical confirmatory tests.

Risk management measures for contaminants in the manufacture, distribution, sale and import of food on the other hand, may include

  • procurement contracts;
  • product specifications or quality certificates (and assurance of compliance with them)
  • contract farming and production in accordance with agreed practices
  • audits
  • optimisation and management of process conditions
  • instructions for use of the food provided for the consumer
  • chemical confirmatory tests

If the maximum level laid down in legislation is exceeded, the food may not be placed on the market or used as an ingredient in food.

Local food control authorities monitor the implementation and adequacy of in-house control accordingly (Oiva lines 17.13-17.16).

Official examinations

Food control examinations of contaminants in food are carried out as required by Community law ((EC) No 1881/2006 as amended) and based on the Commission's monitoring recommendations. The aim is to ensure that the levels of contaminants in food do not exceed the maximum levels laid down in legislation and/or levels considered safe, while providing information on the prevailing national situation. The content of contaminant control is not laid down in EU law, which leaves each Member State with a great deal of authority to design control on a risk-based basis for its own needs.

Examinations carried out and/or coordinated by the Food Authority focus mainly on the creation of a national situational picture and legislative drafting. Besides this, local food control authorities should include contaminant examinations in their own sampling and testing plans. Customs examines food consignments imported into Finland for contaminants in accordance with its own risk-based control plan and taking into account the regulations on increased import control.

If studies show the legal maximum level to have been exceeded or that the level of a contaminant in a food is otherwise found to be harmful to health, this will result in the product not being placed on the market. The distribution of products is always stopped immediately and, if necessary, the products are withdrawn from consumers. The food business operator is responsible for carrying out the recall. The customs authority is responsible for the control measures for non-compliant import consignments and the local food control authorities for control measures for other non-compliant consignments.

Page last updated 6/25/2020