Early food laws were developed mainly to protect the customer against short weight and fraud; present-day food laws are designed to ensure (a) that the customer is not misled; (b) that food is safe to eat; and (c) to provide nutritional standards for some basic foodstuffs. The principles of protecting the consumer against deception are fairly straightforward, even if the practice is sometimes complex. In relation to food safety, one must consider not only short-term toxic effects, but long-term effects, including possible carcinogenesis. Many substances which occur naturally in foods are toxic to some extent; furthermore, food may become contaminated during agricultural production, harvesting, processing and distribution; or substances traditionally added to food may prove to have deleterious effects. Legislation must be able to take account of relevant scientific information at short notice. It is also necessary to keep under review any developments in food technology which might materially affect the nutrient content of the diet of the average person or of special groups. The paper discusses some possible effects of future changes in food technology, food consumption patterns and consumer attitudes, and considers some aspects of research which may be relevant to future legislation.