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Legal News - The Smiley Scheme – Food Control in Denmark

Logo Maqs Law Firm
25. March 2014

All restaurants, supermarkets and food establishments selling food and beverages to the public are inspected by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) on a regular basis.

The smiley scheme in Denmark, launched in 2001, was chosen by the Government as a way to show the consumers how well each food business or restaurant complies with the Danish food legislation requirements. This makes it possible for consumers to see if the restaurants or food businesses have complied with such requirements as labelling or hygiene requirements. All restaurants, supermarkets and food establishments selling food and beverages to the public are inspected by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (DVFA) on a regular basis.

The Smiley Scheme


There are four different kinds of smileys:

Smiley 1

had no remarks 


Smiley 2

emphasized that certain rules must be obeyed 


Smiley 3

issued an injunction order or a prohibition 


Smiley 4

issued an administrative fine, reported the enterprise to the police or withdrew an approval 


The inspections cover the compliance with food safety regulations and other control areas such as food contamination and labelling. The official controls are carried out at irregular intervals based on the risk. All smiley reports can be found on http://www.fvst.dk/smiley . Moreover, the supermarkets, restaurants and food businesses in Denmark are requested to post a copy of the report at their entrance. It can also be found on the website of a food business that sells food from the homepage. The inspection report contains the last three smileys so that the consumer can see the trace and the development of a business.

Implementation and development

Until 2001 the DVFA published a list naming companies that have received fines for violating the food laws. The list had only a small relevance to the customer and was not always up-to-date. To increase the value for the customer Denmark replaced the old system with a very simple 4-smiley scheme published on the internet, where consumers could search for their favorite restaurant or supermarket, in 2001. After the so called “old meat scandal” in 2006, the Danish Parliament decided to introduce a zero tolerance policy which included 10 initiatives to ensure fast and clear-cut sanctions against food businesses that repeatedly violated the Danish food legislation. As part of the zero tolerance policy the smiley and the control report had to be highly visible so that the consumer could easily recognize those signs while entering the establishment, so called “scores on doors”. Furthermore an “elite-smiley” was invented to reward companies that have received only happy smileys at the last four official inspections.

Evolution of the smiley scheme


As a result of the smiley scheme it is the Danish authorities’ opinion that there is a distinct tendency towards a higher compliance in the food sector especially because a bad smiley has an immediate impact on the food business.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact  Lawyer/Associate Partner Claas Thöle at MAQS Law Firm, claas.thoele@dk.maqs.com or phone 33 12 45 22.

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