Food incidents: advice for businesses

scientist filling test tubes with pippette

The FSA leads on the Government response to food incidents. It provides advice on how to report, respond to and prevent an incident, as well as carrying out monitoring and planning work.

What is a food incident?

A food incident is where concerns about actual or suspected threats to the safety or quality of food require intervention to protect consumers. Incidents fall broadly into two categories:

  • contamination of food or animal feed in processing, distribution, retail and catering, resulting in action to withdraw the food from sale or recall it from the public
  • environmental pollution incidents such as fires, chemical/oil spills and radiation leaks, which may involve voluntary or statutory action (e.g. orders made under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985)

Preventing incidents is important for protecting consumers' interests, ensuring food standards and safety, and maintaining trust in the food chain. As part of its incident prevention strategy, the FSA monitors food and feed safety patterns across the UK and provides guidance and workshops to industry.

Preventing an incident

All businesses, irrespective of size, should be taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that the produce they supply meets safety requirements. While the precautions small businesses take may not be as extensive as those taken by a larger business, even small businesses, at all stages of the food or feed chain, must take reasonable precautions to ensure that their produce meets food or feed safety requirements.

Actions you can take may include the following.

  • Use trusted sources of raw materials and ingredients
  • Utilise assurance schemes
  • Utilise food safety management standards
  • Implement food safety management systems
  • Gain local authority help

More information can be found in the 'Principles for preventing and responding to food incidents' factsheet below.

What to do if a food incident happens in your business

Businesses are legally required to inform their local authority/port health authority and the Food Standards Agency if there is reason to believe that food or feed is not compliant with food or feed safety requirements. The authorities will advise you of any action you might need to take.

If businesses have reason to believe food is unsafe, it should immediately be withdrawn or, if necessary, recalled. If the products do not meet food standards requirements, such as labelling or quality issues, where there is no safety issue, then you might wish to ensure that products are withdrawn, rather than risk prosecution.

Report an incident

Report an incident online

FSA headquarters (England)
tel: 020 7276 8448 (out of hours: 0345 051 8486)
fax: 020 7276 8788
email: foodincidents@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

FSA Scotland
tel: 01224 285 196 or 01224 285 194 (out of hours: 07881 516867)
email: scottishincidents@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

FSA Wales
tel: 029 2067 8999 (out of hours: 07789 926573)
email: wales.foodincidents@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

FSA Northern Ireland
tel: 028 9041 7739/7708 (out of hours: 07784 473022)
email: incidents.ni@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

More in this section

  • Food incidents: advice for local authorities

    A food incident is an event where, based on the information available, there are concerns about actual or suspected threats to the safety or quality of food and/or feed that could require intervention to protect consumers' interests.

  • Flooding: food safety advice

    If you have been affected by flooding, either because your home has been flooded, or your water supply has been cut off, read our tips on how to prepare food safely.