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Foodborne pathogens

What are the impacts of foodborne pathogens and how can we reduce them?

Foodborne pathogens such as norovirus, Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) cause approximately 2.4 million cases of disease in the UK population and impose an annual cost to society equivalent to £9.1 billion every year.  

The overarching aim of this Area of Research Interest (ARI) is to empower the FSA to make policy decisions about microbiological foodborne disease based on the best evidence available.  

We also commission external research to develop and refine tools and approaches, for example the development or optimisation of diagnostic tests or quantitative models. Research requirements are identified via an internal programme steering group and are informed by issues raised by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food and the FSA’s Foodborne Disease Policy Framework. Research outputs are used to inform risk assessments and technical advice, to inform policy decisions and to evaluate the performance of changes to policy. #


Research projects related to the programme

Rapid Risk Assessment: Risk to UK consumers from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 B3.13 in US dairy products

In March 2024, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release confirming that the RNA of a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) had been detected in dairy cattle herds that had been displaying milk drop and other clinical signs. In April 2024 the FDA confirmed that infectious virus (sometimes called bird flu) was present in raw milk, and a university research group claimed that RNA was detectable in pasteurised milk on retail sale.

The effects of consumer freezing of food on its use-by date

The current Food Standards Agency guidance states that consumers can freeze pre-packed food right up to the “use-by” date and, once food has been defrosted, it should be consumed within 24 hours. The microbiological team at the FSA has drafted a strategic review to understand whether there is an increased risk to freezing foods on the use-by date compared to the day before the use-by date. The review has focused on how the shelf-life of a food is determined and the effects of freezing, thawing and refrigeration on common foodborne pathogens.

NHS (England) Hospital Food Review – FSA evidence package

This package of evidence was put together to support the NHS (England) Hospital Food Review Panel’s consideration of food safety as part of the “root and branch” review of the food provided in NHS facilities for patients, visitors and staff.