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Audits by the European Commission and inspections by third countries

The European Commission, in its role as guardian of the EC Treaties, is responsible for ensuring that Community legislation is properly implemented.

The responsible Commission service is the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO). It is part of the Directorate General Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE). Its headquarters are located in Grange, County Meath, Ireland. The mission of the Food and Veterinary Office includes checking compliance with the requirements of EU food safety and quality, animal health and welfare and plant health legislation within the European Union and in third countries exporting to the EU.

To this end, the Food and Veterinary Office carries out audits in the Member States and in the third countries concerned. The findings are presented in audit reports that are published on the internet. Before the final report is published on the internet, the competent authorities of the Member State visited is given the opportunity to comment on the report at draft stage.

In the final report, the Food and Veterinary Office also communicates recommendations to the competent authorities of the Member State visited, if the audit has revealed any shortcomings. The Member State then presents an action plan within a set deadline on how it intends to address the shortcomings. The Food and Veterinary Office evaluates this action plan together with other Commission services, and monitors its implementation through a number of follow-up activities.

Where appropriate, the Food and Veterinary Office may highlight areas where the Commission may need to consider clarifying or amending legislation or areas where new legislation might be required. In this way, the results of Food and Veterinary Office audits contribute to the development of EU legislation.

Inspections by third countries

Third countries, i.e. countries which are not members of the European Union, also carry out inspections in Germany. The inspectors from these countries check whether German businesses that export foodstuffs to the third country comply with the requirements of the third country with regard to food safety and other rules. The requirements of the respective third countries can deviate significantly from the standards of the EU.

For some third countries there are so-called equivalency agreements which define which standards from EU law are comparable or equal to those in the third country. Ideally, this can lead to the EU law being fully equivalent to the respective national law for the area in question, whereby unimpeded trade is possible to a large extent.

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