Continuing our series profiling the activities and powers of the agencies responsible for food safety in different countries, now turns its attention to Denmark and Germany. How are the authorities placed to prevent food scares or minimise the damage when they occur?

Country: Denmark

Name: The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration


The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, part of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, was established on 1 July 1, 1997 by the merger of the National Food Agency and the Danish Veterinary Service. The aim of the merger was to coordinate, simplify and increase the efficiency of both food inspection and legislation, thus creating a single authority responsible for all inspection and control of food “from stable to table.”

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Division for Control Coordination: This division has a transverse controlling function between the Administration and the Regional Authorities. It is responsible for the development and information about principles for control and strategies and the management of the food inspection in general, and issuing the results of the inspections.

Division of Food Safety: This division is responsible for regulations concerning microbiological, chemical pollutants, hygiene, organisation and operations of food enterprises, materials and utensils brought in contact with foods plus detergents and disinfectants.

In addition, there are the Division for Marketing, Nutrition and Food Technology, responsible for the regulation of nutrition, food labelling and marketing, genetically modified foods and novel foods, as well as for food technology, food additives and flavourings; the Division for Quality and Organic Food, responsible for regulations on quality labelling and standards of organic food; and the Division for Import/Export, with responsibility for matters related to import/export control, planning of national and international inspections, and works on tasks related to national emergency plans and the contact point for the Rapid Alert System.

Objectives and Responsibilities:

Overall aims:

  • Protect consumers against health risks and secure truthful labelling of products
  • Safeguard the health and welfare of livestock

Specific Objectives:

  • Ensure that food is healthy and uncontaminated
  • Provide consumers with information
  • Ensure the consistent and effective control and inspection of all food at every stage in the production chain
  • Promote the development of high-quality food
  • Promote the development of sustainable food production

Other aims: create sound scientific basis for all activities through research and testing; guard against the influx of dangerous livestock diseases; ensure openness of the Administration’s activities, and ensure uniform conditions for both producers and retailers.


The Danish Food Act provides the foundation for an overall national food and veterinary inspection authority. All inspections are gathered in 11 Regional Veterinary and Food Control Authorities. The Regional Authorities are “knowledge centres” that provide information and guidance concerning legislation in the veterinary and food areas. These authorities handle the inspection of food and veterinary matters “from stable to table.”

[One of the most impressive features (of the Danish Food Administration) is the open nature of the Danish debate about food reform. Under the Danish Constitution, all ministries and agencies are more fully accountable to the Danish Parliament than their British counterparts. Conflicts of interest cannot be so easily concealed in Denmark because they are out in the open and industry knows it has to be answerable in public”. Tim Lang, Erik Millstone & Mike Rayner, Centre for Food Policy, Thames Valley University, London ]

Country: Germany

Name: Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine


The Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV) is one of the three successor institutions to the Federal Health Office in the capacity of independent superior federal authorities. The BgVV, a statutory body, is divided into eight divisions and two special units (ZEBS and ZEBET). BgVV was formed in 1994 when the German structure of its policy advice-giving institution was changed from the previous main institution, the Federal Health Office. The BgVV receives its funding from the Ministry of Health, reports to that ministry and is answerable directly to the Federal Parliament. However, on scientific matters it is structured to be an independent authority.

Objectives and Responsibilities:

(Terms of Reference of BgVV’s 8 divisions and 2 special units)

Division 1: Toxicology of foods and commodities
Division 2: Chemistry and technology of foods and commodities
Division 3: Hygiene of foods and commodities
Division 4: Bacterial epizootics and zoonosis control
Division 5: Diagnosis and epidemiology
Division 6: Marketing authorisation of veterinary medicinal products, residue monitoring, feed additives
Division 7: Pesticides and biocidal products
Division 8: Evaluation of chemicals

Centre for Documentation and Evaluation of Alternatives to Animal Experiments (ZEBET). This unit is responsible for documenting, evaluating and validating alternatives to animal experiments to avoid animal experiments wherever possible and to encourage the use of such alternatives methods, in research and in regulatory toxicology. Research for this purpose is conducted both at the Centre and other institutions commissioned by the Centre.

Centre for Surveillance and Health Evaluation of Environmental Chemicals (ZEBS)
This unit is responsible for the collection and evaluation of data on the frequency of occurrence and levels of chemical residues and contaminants in foods in the sense of preventing health care, to determine, at an early date, the exposure of consumers to such substances and avoid possible health risks by appropriate action.

The terms of reference of the BgVV also include activities in the above fields which are conducted in cooperation with supranational (EU) and international organisations, such as WHO, FAO, OECD.


According to “Food Standards and the State: A Fresh Start (Centre for Food Policy, Thames Valley University, London), the BgVV is responsible for providing scientific and policy advice to the Federal Ministry of Health on all food-related health issues. Responsibility for setting regulations lies with the Ministry of Health, but ministers act on advice from the BgVV, which is required not just to provide ministers with policy advice, but is also responsible for communicating with the public on food safety and risk assessments. The revised structure embodies a formal separation of regulation from sponsorship. “The German arrangements are not quite as secretive as those in the UK, but far less transparent than those in the USA or Sweden. It is consequently difficult to tell the extent to which regulatory capture is occurring, or the extent of covert commercial or political influence on the policy-making process.” The study notes that the BgVV and the Ministry of Health are both empowered to regulate the entire food supply chain, although they consult from time to time with the Ministries of Agriculture and of Environment. Responsibility of enforcement lies with the regional governments or Länder.

The German regime does have a single Ministry responsible for regulating the entire food chain. It also receives authoritative advice from a relatively autonomous agency which possesses scientific expertise. The German system has a ‘paddock to plate’ overview, which from a British perspective “is a definite bonus, as is the separation of regulation from sponsorship, without which there is little hope of beginning the slow task of regaining public trust in the UK.”

By Aaron Priel, correspondent

To see PART ONE of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in the UK and the US Click Here

To see PART TWO of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in the Australia and Ireland Click Here

To see PART THREE of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in the Canada and Sweden Click Here

To see PART FIVE of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in Finland and France Click Here