Inspection of food establishments

It is the responsibility of every food business operator to comply with the food legislation in order to produce and sell safe food. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) checks that the food businesses comply with the legal requirements.

All food establishments in Denmark must be either registered or approved by DVFA. All food establishments have to perform own-checks concerning food safety etc.

Read more about own-checks in food establishments

Control actions

Inspections within the food sector are performed as a combination of several different actions, with inspection and guidance designed to help as many establishments as possible to understand and comply with the rules. Below is an overview of the various categories of controls performed by the DVFA within the food sector. Control of the companies' HACCP-plan is part of the general inspections within the food sector.

There is an individual risk characterization of all establishments based on five factors:

  • Consumer base
  • Processes
  • Poducts
  • Activities
  • Vulnerable consumers

The sum of the risk points places the food establishment in one of five risk groups:

  • Very high
  • High
  • Medium
  • Low
  • Ultra-low

The type of establishment and the number of risk points decides if the establishments will belong to the group getting

  • Basic inspection by frequency or
  • Spot-check basic inspection

Food establishments with a high number of risk points according to their activities get inspections after standard frequency. This is typically the case for wholesale establishments producing food. Establishments producing and exporting animal products belong to this group.

The risk group determines the standard frequency of basic inspections. The number of standard inspections vary from 4 per year (in risk group very high) to when required (in risk group ultra-low). Slaughterhouses, fish product establishments and dairies typically get 4 basic inspections per year.

Food establishments with good compliance are inspected with a reduced frequency if they:

  • Are in one of the following risk groups: low, medium, high, very high
  • Have no sanctions on the last four inspection reports
  • Have no sanctions on inspection reports within the last 12 months

Food establishments in risk group very high with a reduced frequency of 3 can get their inspection frequency further reduced to 2 after one year with reduced frequency status.

Most food establishments like restaurants, supermarkets and wholesalers without production are not inspected by a fixed frequency. Instead, the establishments are appointed for control on a risk basis by the use of data analysis.

The data model uses machine learning technology to calculate establishments' risk of non-compliances based on historic control data.

Some activities are inspected with fixed frequencies. As examples can be mentioned:

  • Slaughtering (AM/PM inspections)
  • Organic food preparation etc.
  • Import
  • Export

Starthelp is a notified inspection with extra time for guidance for new establishments. Some establishments will get the guidance at the approval inspection.

Campaign inspections focus on one or more subjects with more in-depth inspection and guidance.

The inspection campaigns are selected and planned for each year in a risk based manner.

Read more about campaigns

Inspections as prioritized actions are risk-based and appointed on analysis of inspection results, evaluation of current problems that require extra focus etc. They can be aimed at a group of establishments on the basis of e.g. compliance or activities.

The prioritized actions are planned two times a year and if there is a sudden need for a prioritized action, this is possible.

Upon receipt of a consumer notification, DVFA makes an assessment of whether an inspection should be carried out and how soon depending on the risk for food safety. This action also includes inspections in connection with withdrawal of products from the market and cases in relation to sickness.

DVFA will carry out two follow-up inspections of establishments who has been given a sanction.

The first inspection is targeted the area for the non-compliance. The second inspection is a standard inspection.

If a food business has a third party certification and is placed in one of the risk groups low, middle, high or very high, it can apply to be part of a special control scheme.

The scheme requires that the third party certification of the establishment's quality control system covers all food activities and food legislative areas (small exceptions are possible).

Within the scheme the standard inspection frequency is reduced. The food inspectors use the information in the audit reports made by the certification bodies, during inspections.

A corporation can sign up for a special control scheme. The scheme requires that the corporations' head quarter is responsible for and manages relevant parts of the quality control systems e.g. the HACCP plan.

At the head quarter the inspections focus on e.g. procedures that the head quarter is responsible for, and inspections of the local establishments focus on e.g. implementation of the procedures.

For corporations with basic inspections by standard or reduced frequency, the total number of these inspections can be reduced by 1/3 if the corporation as a whole has high compliance (few sanctions).

The content of the inspections varies depending on e.g. the type of establishment, their activities and the type of inspection.

At a standard inspection, the inspector will as a minimum check hygiene, own-checks and registered activities.

Other relevant items will be controlled at inspections within certain time periods. Samples for analysis are often taken by specialized samplers as part of laboratory projects.

Read more about laboratory projects

Meat inspection takes place in all slaughterhouses in Denmark. No animal can be slaughtered and used for human consumption without prior inspection by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

Veterinarians and auxiliaries perform ante- and post-mortem controls. They also audit own-check programmes and other procedures, and inspect e.g. hygiene and animal welfare.

When an inspector discovers that an establishment violates the food law he or she can choose to use the following enforcements actions:

  • No sanction. If a non-compliance is so small that it would be out of proportion to sanction, the inspector can give guidance instead.
  • Warning
  • Injunction order
  • Prohibitory order
  • Administrative fine
  • Reporting to the police
  • Approval or registration withdrawn

The inspectors give the sanctions deemed necessary to ensure that the establishment corrects the non-compliance. If the establishment still fails to comply with the food law, the sanctioning is escalated to a more severe sanction.

Inspections are with few exceptions carried out unannounced.

A version from June 2020 was translated into English:

Guidelines on inspection in the food sector (PDF)

See the guidelines on inspections in the food sector in Danish:

Vejledning om kontrolindsatser på fødevareområdet

There have been changes since then but the control actions are essentially the same.

Annex 1 Guidelines for planning inspections at slaughterhouses and wholesale meat control objects has been removed from the new version. DVFA has in relation to this made guidelines on planning of inspections in slaughterhouses (same planning system as for other wholesale establishment).

DVFA plans to translate the new version of the guidelines on inspection in the food sector into English.