Data protection in the food industry

What information can the control authority require from a food business operator?

The control authorities have a statutory right based on the Food Act to receive sufficient information confirming that the own-check activities carried out by the food business operator are in order (for example, information about Hygiene Passports, health status statements regarding salmonella infection). The control authority can verify this in different ways. The control authority must be able to verify whether the own-check activities are sufficiently comprehensive in relation to the nature and extent of the activities.

What is sufficient information?

  • The requirements in legislation are met.
  • Own-check documents contain a description of how the information is obtained and stored.
  • The information is up to date.
  • Sufficient information may be concrete records (e.g. Word, Excel) or a more extensive information system. However, the operator themselves decides how to handle the matter. There are several ways to verify the matter.

The Hygiene Passport records may consist of

  • Copies of the Hygiene Passports presented to the operator
  • A list of the persons who are required to hold a Hygiene Passport and who have presented their original Hygiene Passports to the operator
  • On food premises with a small number of employees, a procedure where the employees present their original Hygiene Passports to the control authority may be acceptable. 
  • The records may be kept on paper, electronically or with both methods. The operator must be able to present the records to the control authority.
  • More detailed information on hygiene proficiency and the Hygiene Passport is available on the website of the Finnish Food Authority.

Health status statements regarding salmonella infection

  • The operator must have up-to-date knowledge of the personnel's health status statements regarding salmonella infection. The own-check documents should at least indicate the employees from whom the statement is required, confirm that the suitability of these persons to food industry work has been established and mention where the statements are kept.
  • The personnel's actual health information does not need to be stored at the workplace, but can be stored in occupational health care, for example. The party preparing the health status statements regarding salmonella infection is responsible for how the statements are implemented in practice. How the matter is notified to the food business operator is a matter between the operator and the party drawing up the statements.
  • The operator must ensure that its employees’ health does not endanger the safety of the foods. The persons who are known or suspected to be carrying a foodborne disease do not handle foods in the food premises.
  • More specific instructions can be found in the guidelines of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) (in Finnish)

The control authority can require the operator to provide information only to the extent that is needed on the basis of its statutory duty to verify the matter. It is the operator’ responsibility to decide how to organise the above-mentioned matters from the point of view of data protection and data security. The privacy protection of employees does not prevent the operator from fulfilling the statutory obligation.

Page last updated 7/25/2023