A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)-hosted conference has heard how national food sectors dominated by small businesses have real problems implementing European Union (EU) food hygiene laws.

At a two-day meeting in Parma, Italy, lawyers representing the European food industry, food safety regulators and consumer organisations heard that even EU regulation 178/2002 on food safety was proving tough to enact, even though it defines general principles. "Some member states are finding it difficult to implement the new rules using their existing legal system," said a paper.

John Coughlan, spokesman for the Academy of European Law, organisers of the meeting, said later it was clear that some EU member countries had far more "evolved" food safety systems than others. Italy for instance, had a strong tradition of local food manufacture and safety, but did not find it easy to implement regulations that were routine for countries where production was on an "industrial" scale.