Food and drug safety in Austria

Dr. Georg Zanger, President of ACBA, spoke at the 8th Multinational Corporation Leader Roundtable Meeting & International Forum for Food and Drug Safety and Responsibility on 7th November in Beijing. The transcript of his speech:

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!

As you certainly know, Europe suffers from refugees at the moment. I’m proud that Austria is internationally recognized as brilliant in solving this enormous problem. That reminds us that, eating and drinking is an essential part of our daily routine in order to survive. 


Eating food is an emotional affair, more than the mere intake of nutrition and issues related to food are omnipresent in the media. The illustration of dangers and risks is very important in this context.

Food safety and food control in Austria

The national legal basis for food safety and control is the Austrian Food Safety and Consumer Protection Act of 2006. It integrates provisions resulting from EU Regulations on food safety, food control and food hygiene.

It assigns responsibilities for enacting EU legislation to national administrative bodies.


In Austria, the Federal Ministry of Health ( has the overall responsibility for food safety and food safety legislation. It coordinates the activities of the food inspection authorities of the nine Federal Provinces and of laboratories designated for analyses of official samples.

Import controls for food of non-animal origin are carried out by food inspectors. Imported food of animal origin is controlled by border veterinarians.

Food quality and control in Austria

Assurance of the best possible supply of high-quality foodstuffs is an official objective of the Austrian agricultural policy laid down in the Farm Act of 1992.

The Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft) considers food quality and food safety as integrated components of a sustainable food production model. Emphasis is placed on high-end food quality produced in an integrated and comprehensive approach to the entire food chain.

The Austrian agri-food model

The Austrian agri-food model is characterized by a holistic approach. The biggest principle of sustainability serves as the basis for the strategic goals food security, food safety and food quality, food diversity and regionality as well as the value and appreciation for food.

Food safety from farm to fork is indispensable. It is largely harmonized on EU level. Its importance has continuously risen over the past decades. Communicating the benefits of the stringent regulations clearly and taking even greater account of consumers’ preferences will be vital for the future success of agricultural  products.

Food quality: 

Austrian consumers expect high quality beyond the legal minimum standards of safe food. Their expectations include environmentally friendly production (restricted use or abandonment of pesticides, fertilizers), animal welfare and organic food. Food quality is the basis of the good reputation and the high competitive strength of Austrian agricultural products and is therefore a key factor in sale. 

Diversity of food contributes to healthy nutrition by a vast variety of ingredients, to the preservation of rare plant varieties or endangered animal breeds and the preservation of traditional dishes and culinary cuisine. 

Bringing rare species and endangered animal breeds back on the table of consumers is not only the goal of the sustainable in-situ cultivation of genetic resources, but also a contribution to the conservation of our cultural heritage. Promoting a well-functioning partnership between our farmers as the primary guardians of genetic resources, processors, traders, hotel and restaurant keepers is a strategic goal to be pursued in this context.

Regionality fulfils consumer wishes as to the origin of food, process and product quality of regional food and enhances a trustful relationship between producer and consumer. Nowadays, local agriculture and regional co-operation are important purchasing criteria for many consumers which leads to high value added in rural areas and contributes to climate protection.

Value and appreciation of food as well as the avoidance of food waste are particularly important elements in the Austrian food model. Awareness-raising at all stages of the food chain and information campaigns are key measures of strategies to combat food waste.

Food security: 

The supply with adequate safe and nutritious food will become the biggest challenge in the current century of climate change and rising global population.

The social responsibility for food security and adequate prices requires that ethical aspects, for example the problem of food waste, are to a greater extent taken into account in discussions.

Drug safety

Austrian and European laws regulate drug safety extensively. Very interesting is the possibility to purchase pharmaceuticals on Internet.

Since June 2015, Austrian pharmacies are allowed to sell medicines obtainable without a prescription on internet. To insure a safe purchase of the medicaments, Austria has issued a medicine law that follows the EU regulations.

The regulations have the goal of protection against counterfeit medicine (Arzneimittelfälschung), that are offered online in big amounts and can constitute a relevant health risk for patients.

Only pharmaceuticals that are obtainable without a prescription can be purchased on internet. The shipping of the pharmaceuticals is only allowed for registered public pharmacies. 

These are pharmaceuticals that have been approved by a commission of the Austrian Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte (BfArM)) but that can only be sold by pharmacies.

This status depends mainly on the risks that the medicament might have.

Besides these pharmaceuticals, there are others that can be sold on the free market. These pharmaceuticals have rather weak medically effective constituents or are standard medicaments with low dosage and don’t need a diagnose from a doctor or advice from pharmacy staff. These are usually herbal teas, vitamins, mineral nutrients and plant extracts.

Finally, I agree with Mr Han Daynan that food and drug safety is a human right. The match to win is social responsibility versus greed of gain!

Thank you for your attention!